HealthLeader

An Online Wellness Magazine produced by The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth)

Coming Up for Air

When experiencing chronic shortness of breath, don’t wait to exhale

Coming Up for Air

Annie Graham couldn’t breathe. The 66-year-old conservation activist has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and her symptoms are normally under control with medication. But when an infection last January overwhelmed that equilibrium, Graham found herself in an ambulance headed to the intensive care unit at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center. The memory is “just a blur,” she says.

“I truly could not breathe. I could not get a breath of air,” Graham recalls. “It was a very, very scary thing.”

Shortness of breath that severe can be deadly. The problem often originates in the lung, and chronic lung diseases are the third leading cause of death in the United States, behind only cancer and cardiovascular disease. But many other health problems can cause shortness of breath, too.

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