What causes labored breathing? 13 possible conditions

Viewing 13 of 13 results

Definition

Labored breathing is working hard to breathe.

Alternative Names

Labored respiration, struggling to breathe.

Synopsis

Labored breathing is a medical emergency. Breathing is an automatic process, regulated in the brainstem. Working to breathe is usually a sign of a serious medical problem requiring immediate intervention.

Associated Diagnoses

  • Adult respiratory distress syndrome
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Asthma
  • Burns (inhalation injury)
  • Pneumonia
  • Croup
  • Pneumothorax
  • SARS
  • Encephalitis
  • Diabetic ketoacidosis
  • Diptheria
  • Head injury
  • Pulmonary embolism
  • Foreign body, swallowed
  • Skull fracture
  • Patent ductus arteriosus
  • Lung cancer
  • Shock

Diagnosis and Treatments

A complete history and physical by a qualified provider to assess and treat any underlying condition will be needed to determine the cause of labored breathing. Diagnostic studies may include chest x-rays, CT scan, blood test, arterial blood gases, or ventilation/perfusion scan of the lungs. Treatment will depend on the findings, with the immediate goal of adequate ventilation.

Call 911:

For labored breathing, especially if accompanied by:

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Rapid breathing
  • Nasal flaring
  • Air hunger
  • Gasping for breath
  • Choking
  • Chest pain
  • Confusion
  • Sweating profusely
  • Pallor (pale skin)
  • Cyanosis (skin turns blue)
  • Dizziness
  • Coughing up blood
  • Fever

Labored Breathing News

  • Health Tip: Signs of an Asthma Attack in Your Child
Read More

See a list of possible causes in order from the most common to the least.

1

Asthma Overview

Learn about asthma. Explore the types of asthma and read information about their symptoms, causes and treatments. Continue reading!

Read more »

2

COPD Overview

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), is a lung condition usually caused by smoking. It makes breathing difficult, and wheezing, tightness in chest, and chest infections are common.

Read more »

3

Adult Respiratory Distress Syndrome

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

Adult respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) is a severe lung condition that occurs when fluid fills up the air sacs in your lungs. Common symptoms include labored breathing, fever, fast pulse, and blue skin or nails.

Read more »

4

Head Injury

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

A head injury could be an injury to the brain, skull, or scalp. It can vary in severity depending on the cause. In some cases face swelling can be a sign of a head injury.

Read more »

5

Swallowed (or Inhaled) Foreign Object

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

Swallowing a foreign object can happen to anyone but is more common in children and in the elderly. Symptoms are often visually obvious and include choking, wheezing, and skin discoloration.

Read more »

6

Agoraphobia

Agoraphobia is an anxiety disorder that causes people to avoid situations that might cause them to feel trapped, helpless, embarrassed, or scared. It's more common in women than it is in men.

Read more »

7

Diabetic Ketoacidosis

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) is a serious complication that stems from diabetes. If you don't have enough insulin to help your body process sugars (glucose), your body will start burning fat to fuel itself. As a result...

Read more »

8

Diphtheria

Diphtheria is a bacterial infection that affects the membranes of the throat and nose. Although it spreads easily, diphtheria can be prevented through the use of vaccines. If left untreated, diphtheria can cause sever...

Read more »

9

Skull Fractures

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

A skull fracture is any break in the cranial bone, or the skull. It can result in bleeding, bruising, pain, and swelling. Less severe symptoms include headache, nausea, confusion, and blurred vision.

Read more »

10

Lung Cancer Overview

Lung cancer is a cancer that originates in the lungs. Lung cancer often goes undetected in the early stages, since symptoms don't usually present themselves until the advanced stages of the disease.

Read more »

11

Encephalitis

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

Encephalitis is inflammation of the brain tissue. Most cases are caused by viral infections. In rare cases it can also be caused by bacteria.There are two main types of encephalitis-primary and secondary. Primar...

Read more »

12

Patent Ductus Arteriosus

Patent ductus arteriosus (PDA) is a fairly common congenital heart defect that is seen in about 3,000 newborns every year in the U.S.

Read more »

13

Croup

Croup is a viral condition that causes swelling around the vocal cords. It is characterized by breathing difficulties and a bad cough that sounds like a barking seal. Many of the viruses responsible for croup also caus...

Read more »

This feature is for informational purposes only and should not be used to diagnose.
Please consult a healthcare professional if you have health concerns.
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