Shortness Of Breath / Breathing Difficulty

What Causes Breathing Difficulty When Not Active?

Breathing difficulty when not active can have various causes, ranging in severity from 'troubling' to 'generally fatal'.  Finding the true cause means ruling out or confirming each possibility – in other words, diagnosis.

Diagnose your symptoms now!
  • check your overall health status
  • learn what you should be doing right now
  • have a doctor review your case (optional)

Diagnosis is usually a complex process due to the sheer number of possible causes and related symptoms.  In order to diagnose breathing difficulty when not active, we could:

  • Research the topic
  • Find a doctor with the time
  • Use a diagnostic computer system.
The process is the same, whichever method is used.

Step 1: List all Possible Causes

We begin by identifying the disease conditions which have "breathing difficulty when not active" as a symptom.  Here are eight of many possibilities (more below):
  • Ovarian Cancer
  • Asthma
  • Heart Disease
  • Pulmonary Embolism
  • Congestive Heart Failure
  • Chronic Bronchitis
  • Arrhythmias
  • Milk Allergy

Step 2: Build a Symptom Checklist

We then identify all possible symptoms and risk factors of each possible cause, and check the ones that apply:
feeling false urges to urinate
waking up with choking sensation
calcium supplementation
African ethnicity
very low HDL cholesterol level
heart racing/palpitations
past vaccinations
heaviness of the legs
pale fingernails
premenstrual abdominal bloating
difficult exhalation
current birth control pill use
... and more than 70 others

Step 3: Rule Out or Confirm each Possible Cause

A differential diagnosis of your symptoms and risk factors finds the likely cause of breathing difficulty when not active:
Cause Probability Status
Heart Disease 91% Confirm
Milk Allergy 23% Unlikely
Arrhythmias 13% Unlikely
Pulmonary Embolism 4% Ruled out
Asthma 0% Ruled out
Ovarian Cancer 0% Ruled out
Congestive Heart Failure 0% Ruled out
Chronic Bronchitis 0% Ruled out
* This is a simple example to illustrate the process

Arriving at a Correct Diagnosis

The Analyst™ is our online diagnosis tool that learns all about you through a straightforward process of multi-level questioning, providing diagnosis at the end.

If you indicate having breathing problems, The Analyst™ will ask further questions including this one:
If you ever experience shortness of breath when you are not physically active, how would you describe it?
Possible responses:
→ I am never breathless when at rest / don't know
→ Occasional/mild breathlessness, not a big problem
→ Regular/moderate breathlessness, quite worrying
→ Serious sudden shortness of breath, very worrying
Based on your response to this question, which may indicate no shortness of breath when at rest, shortness of breath when at rest or sudden shortness of breath, The Analyst™ will consider possibilities such as:

Shortness of breath can occur with large ascites that causes pressure on the diaphragm and fluid around the lungs.

Congestive Heart Failure

Congestive heart failure leads to reduced blood supply to the kidneys, which leads in turn reduced kidney function, and in turn excess fluid retention (edema).  The lungs may become congested with fluid (pulmonary edema) and thus the ability to exercise is decreased.


The common symptoms of pneumonia include breathlessness.

Pulmonary Embolism

The most important symptom of pulmonary embolism is breathlessness, which often occurs suddenly and for which there is no other explanation.

Concerned or curious about your health?  Try The Analyst™
Symptom Entry
Symptom Entry
Full Explanations
Optional Doctor Review
Review (optional)
We use cookies for traffic analysis, advertising, and to provide the best user experience