Symptoms of Dyspnoea

Dyspnoea: Shortness of breath, Upper airway disorder

Dyspnoea is the medical term for shortness of breath. Dyspnoea may occur at rest or with exertion or at both times. There are many different causes of dyspnea involving different systems in the body including disorders of the lungs, disorders of the heart as well as disorders of the upper airway.

Dyspnoea caused by an upper airway disorder is usually associated with other upper airway symptoms such as stridor (noisy breathing), voice change, neck lump(s) or swallowing  difficulties. Therefore, unless one of these symptoms is also present, it is best to see a lung or heart specialist initially.

How do we evaluate dyspnoea?

People with dyspnea (suspected to be caused by an upper airway disorder) are initially evaluated by taking a thorough medical history and by performing an examination of the neck and airway, including endoscopy. In this setting, there are two types of endoscopy: standard endoscopy of the throat (laryngoscopy),and transnasal tracheoscopy. Both procedures involve the passage of an endoscope (a slim tube with a camera on the end) through the noseusing local anaesthetic to examine the airway. A tracheoscopy involves passing the endoscope between the vocal folds into the trachea (windpipe) to examine the lower part of the airway. Both are performed in the office.

Additional investigations such as CT scanning, and/or examination under anaesthesia may be required to confirm the diagnosis.

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