Introduction

Treatment of breathlessness is efficacious when the cause is identified and can be modified. In the most frequent clinical situations of breathlessness, specific treatment normally provides little or no relief. However, it is mandatory to explore the possibility of alleviating the distress, specifically to find a therapeutic approach which decreases the sensation of breathlessness but does not cause changes in the mechanics and control of ventilation. Such therapy does not substitute specific treatment for the disease, but could play an important role in patient comfort, particularly if the main process is chronic and irreversible. In such cases, reducing the sensation of breathlessness can improve the quality of life.

In this discussion of treatment, an approach similar to that used in the discussion of the causes of breathlessness is also applicable. We analyze the procedures used to reduce the ventilatory demands and the interventions made to improve ventilatory capacity, and discuss management of the fear of breathlessness and its related subjective sensitivity. Pharmacological intervention is considered separately.

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