Shortness of breath doesn't lead to respiratory problems but may be caused by respiratory problems. Shortness of breath is generally a symptom of a problem, rather than the cause. Therefore, it is important to find out what is causing you to feel short of breath, as it can be a serious condition.
There is a range of causes of shortness of breath, but they generally stem from a problem with the lungs or the heart. However, anxiety or stress can also cause shortness of breath, as can being unfit and overweight. Most of us have experienced shortness of breath, maybe after running up some stairs or running to catch a train. But if you are constantly feeling short of breath to the point that you can't perform your daily activities, you should see a doctor. Of course, if you are suddenly feeling severely short of breath you probably need to call an ambulance or go to the emergency department.
Your doctor will perform a few basic tests after taking your medical history, such as placing a sensor on your finger to see how much oxygen is in your blood and listening to your heart and lungs. You may also be sent to have a chest X-ray, blood test, electrocardiogram (ECG) and some breathing tests. You may have an acute infection, such as pneumonia, bronchitis or even a cold with bad congestion. A few days rest and some antibiotics may do the trick. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is common among smokers and causes damage to the lungs, leaving you feeling more and more short of breath as the disease progresses. Heart failure can also cause shortness of breath, since the heart is not adequately pumping oxygenated blood out of the lungs and around the body. These conditions are more serious and will need to be managed by your doctor.