Mechanisms of dyspnea in healthy subjects

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Dyspnea is a general term used to characterize a range of different descriptors; it varies in intensity, and is influenced by a wide variety of factors such as cultural expectations and the patient's experiences. Healthy subjects can experience dyspnea in different situations, e.g. at high altitude, after breathholding, during stressful situations that cause anxiety or panic, and more commonly during strenuous exercise. Discussing the mechanisms of dyspnea we need to briefly take into account the physiological mechanisms underlying the sensation of dyspnea: the functional status of the respiratory muscles, the role of chemoreceptors and mechanoreceptors, and how the sense of respiratory motor output reaches a level of conscious awareness. We also need to take into account theories on the pathophysiological mechanisms of the sensation of dyspnea and the possibility that each pathophysiological mechanism produces a distinct quality of breathing discomfort. The terms used by subjects to identify different characteristics of breathing discomfort - dyspnea descriptors - may contribute to understanding the mechanisms of dyspnea and providing the rationale for a specific diagnosis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)195-201
Number of pages7
JournalMultidisciplinary Respiratory Medicine
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2010


  • Dyspnea
  • Healthy subjects
  • Respiratory effort

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine


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