Shortness of Breath & VP Cheney (cont.)
Anxiety can lead to acute or chronic hyperventilation (excessively rapid
breathing). An average 150 pound (70 kilogram) adult breaths at an average rate
of 14 breaths per minute at rest. Excessively rapid breathing is referred to as
hyperventilation. It is a common cause of shortness of breath.
Muscle & Nerve Diseases
Numerous diseases of muscles and the nervous system can lead to shortness of
breath by weakening the body's capacity for opening the lungs up for
respiration. Examples of muscle diseases include muscular dystrophy,
polymyositis, and dermatomyositis. Examples of nervous
system diseases that can cause shortness of breath include Lou Gehrig's disease
(ALS) and multiple sclerosis.
Many conditions that affect the heart and its capacity to move blood through the
lungs can lead to shortness of breath. These conditions include a heart attack
(that Mr. Cheney feared), congestive heart failure, and heart valve disease.
Lung Vessel Disease
The blood vessels that transport blood to and from the lungs and permit the
vital exchange of carbon dioxide for oxygen can be compromised by disease and
lead to shortness of breath. Examples of conditions that affect these blood
vessels include pulmonary embolism (a clot in the lungs), pulmonary hypertension
(high blood pressure in the pulmonary artery), and pulmonary vasculitis (inflammation of pulmonary vessels).
Lung diseases that can cause shortness of breath include infections such as
pneumonia and bronchitis, lung cancer and cancer that has spread to the lung,
chemical and radiation toxicity to the lung (including radiation therapy),
occupational toxicities (such as from silicon in mines), sarcoidosis,
hemosiderosis, tuberculosis, fungus infections such histoplasmosis and coccidiomycosis
(valley fever), allergic reactions (hypersensitivity pneumonitis) drug toxicity, and connective tissue diseases such as
rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.
Obstruction To Airflow
Obstruction to airflow can occur in the nose or mouth, the trachea (windpipe in our throats), bronchial
tubes, or the tiny airways in the lungs. The obstruction
to airflow can be acute (sudden), intermittent, or chronic.
Sudden blockage of airways is a medical emergency and
can be caused by inhaling objects, food particles or fluids. It can also be caused by swelling of
the glottis (breathing flap) in the back of the throat from an allergic
Intermittent obstruction of the airflow can come from conditions that
irritate or swell the bronchial airways, such as asthma, chronic bronchitis, or
Chronic shortness of breath is characteristic of emphysema and COPD (chronic
obstructive pulmonary disease). The shortness of breath may be even at rest and