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Department of Pulmonology (Respiratory and Sleep Medicine)

How Do You Figure Out The Causes Of Breathlessness? What Is Atelectasis?

Posted On: Jun 12, 2024

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All About Atelectasis and Breathlessness

Running out of breath with only a flight of stairs? Is walking tiring you out like crazy? Maybe you should read more to know about your health.



Breathlessness can happen to people when they run, dance or put themselves in situations of physical strain and exertion. If the same breathlessness happens even in case of mild activity and strain, it might be a symptom of an underlying health condition. Manipal Hospitals Ghaziabad has some of the best doctors for respiratory issues to help you find the right treatment for you.

Causes of Breathlessness (Dyspnea)

Breathlessness, also called dyspnea, can be caused by many different things, including atelectasis. Here's how doctors figure out the cause:

  • Medical History: A lung doctor may ask about your symptoms, any recent illnesses, surgeries, or risk factors for lung problems like smoking or high cholesterol.
  • Physical Examination: Doctors conduct thorough physical exams, and this may include the observation of breathing patterns using a stethoscope and checking for chest pain, wheezing, or abnormal chest movement. 
  • TMT: In case your doctor suspects heart issues, they may put you on a treadmill test to assess if your breathlessness causes is due to heart issues or lung conditions. 
  • Imaging Tests: X-rays, CT scans, or MRIs can help visualise your lungs and identify any abnormalities like atelectasis, fluid buildup, or tumours.
  • Pulmonary Function Tests (PFTs): These tests measure how well your lungs are working by assessing lung capacity and airflow.

Here are some other potential causes of breathlessness besides atelectasis:

  • Asthma: This chronic lung condition causes inflammation and narrowing of the airways, leading to difficulty breathing.
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD): This group of lung diseases, including emphysema and chronic bronchitis, damages the lungs and makes it hard to breathe.
  • Heart Failure: When your heart is weak, fluid can back up into your lungs, causing shortness of breath.
  • Anxiety: Anxiety attacks can sometimes cause rapid breathing or a feeling of shortness of breath.

What is Atelectasis?

Atelectasis is a condition where all or part of your lung collapses. This happens because the tiny air sacs (alveoli) in that area are unable to inflate properly. When these air sacs can't fill with air, the affected lung section shrinks and becomes airless.

There are three main causes of atelectasis:

  • Blockage: Mucus buildup, a foreign object, or a tumour can block an airway, preventing air from reaching a particular section of the lung.
  • External Pressure: Fluid buildup around the lung (pleural effusion) or a tumour pressing on the lung can prevent it from expanding fully.
  • Defective Air Flow: Certain conditions like weak respiratory muscles or anaesthesia can make it difficult to take deep breaths, leading to incomplete lung inflation.

For atelectasis treatment at Manipal Hospitals Ghaziabad, we have the best lung doctors in Ghaziabad working closely with state-of-the-art technicians and diagnostic equipment to help diagnose and treat all your health concerns.

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