Breathlessness is an extremely common and distressing symptom. It is characterized by four closely related sensations: tightness, excessive ventilation, excessive frequency of breathing, and difficulty in the act of breathing. These sensations cannot be isolated, and in some patients it is difficult to differentiate between them and other sensations referred to the chest.

We do not yet know the basic physiological mechanisms causing breathlessness or which lung function test is the most appropriate for evaluating this distress. An excellent review of respiratory sensations has recently been published ( ┬žn.d Gyz...1.996.).

The conscious sensation of discomfort associated with breathing is also called dyspnea. Strictly speaking, breathlessness is related more to a lack of satiaton and dyspnea to effort, but the terms are used interchangeably.

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