Table of Contents
Background to ‘Breathlessness
Palliative management of ‘Breathlessness
Roles of supportive interventions in the palliative management of ‘Breathlessness’
The chosen symptom for this assignment is ‘Breathlessness’. The first section of this assignment describes the background to breathlessness. The second section of this assignment discusses palliative management to breathlessness. The third section of this assignment describes the roles of supportive interventions in the palliative management of breathlessness.
Background to ‘Breathlessness’
Breathlessness (also known as dyspnoea) refers to the sensation of shortness of breath or difficulty breathing. It is an extremely common symptom but can be both distressing and frightening for patients and carers. Breathlessness may occur in conjunction with other symptoms such as cough, chest pain and fever. It can be caused by a variety of conditions affecting the lungs, heart and/or general circulation. In these cases, breathlessness occurs due to a fall in the levels of oxygen in the blood, increased levels of carbon dioxide or just difficulty expanding the lungs. The possible causes of breathlessness are extensive.
Breathlessness (or dyspnoea) is described as the feeling of shortness of breath. It is a very common complaint associated with various medical conditions affecting the heart, lungs and other systems. Breathlessness can be distressing and frightening for both patients and carers. If you experience breathlessness it is worth seeing a doctor so they can exclude any serious underlying pathology and help you to manage your disorder. Breathlessness is normally worse on exertion or exercise. Doctors grade the severity of your breathlessness according to the degree of activity that causes the symptom. Grade four is the worst and this is associated with shortness of breath at rest.
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In general, there are four main mechanisms which can make someone feel short of breath:
- Decreased oxygen levels in the bloodstream.
- Increased levels of carbon dioxide in the bloodstream.
- Decreased ability of the lung to expand.
- The increased workload associated with normal breathing.
Shortness of breath can manifest as a variety of signs and symptoms, due to a large number of possible causes. However, the most common frequent presentation is breathlessness and cough. Other common symptoms include cyanosis (blue discolouration often of fingers, toes or mouth due to an increase in the concentration of deoxygenated haemoglobin), chest pain, haemoptysis (coughing up blood), abnormal sputum and altered breathing patterns. If you have a fever associated with your breathlessness you may have an infection of the lungs (pneumonia).
All problems with breathing whether of sudden onset or long-term and regardless of other symptoms should be considered seriously. Although many of the possible causes are harmless and easily treated, you should still see your doctor for a thorough medical evaluation…………………