Breathing is an essential activity for daily living, and any small restriction in your breath can greatly affect your quality of life. If you frequently feel short of breath, you may be experiencing an airway disorder. There are many medical conditions that can cause shortness of breath. Some of the more common ones include pulmonary diseases (asthma, COPD, etc.), cardiovascular disease, pneumonia, and bronchitis--but there are many others that have similar symptoms. It is important to see a physician to determine the cause of your shortness of breath.
What are the symptoms of a breathing disorder?
- Shortness of breath
- Feeling of throat tightness
- Frequent coughing
- Noisy breathing called "stridor" which sounds like whistling
- Strenuous breathing which is often more effortful during inhalation
How is a breathing disorder diagnosed?
Videostroboscopy: This test uses a camera called an endoscope that can visualize your larynx. There are two types of endoscopes: flexible endoscope and rigid endoscope. A flexible endoscope is a small flexible camera that looks up through your nose and hangs over the back of your throat to view your larynx. It does not hurt and only takes one or two minutes to perform the test. A rigid endoscope is a slightly larger, but still small, firm camera that enters your mouth, just to the back of your tongue, and looks at your larynx via the mouth. It does not go down your throat and also does not hurt. Both endoscopes use light sources called strobe lights that allow the physicians to view the vocal folds vibrating in slow motion.
Bronchoscopy: A bronchoscopy allows the physician to view the entire trachea (windpipe) down to the carina (the ridge separating the openings of the right and left main bronchi leading to the lungs). Bronchoscopies are performed using a flexible endoscope (similar to the one described in “flexible videostroboscopy” above) that is slightly longer. Bronchoscopies can be performed while a patient is awake and are typically done in that manner unless a patient objects. A patient is numbed with topical anesthetic so he/she does not feel the scope entering the airway. The procedure takes around 5 minutes.