Breathing Disorders

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 common ones include pulmonary diseases (such as asthma and COPD), cardiovascular disease, pneumonia, and bronchitis. Our specialists are skilled in determining the cause of your symptoms and providing the best available care for your airway disorder.

Breathing Disorders We Treat

Our experienced team treats the full range of breathing disorders, including:

Symptoms of a Breathing Disorder

Breathing disorders can cause a range of symptoms, including:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Throat tightness
  • Frequent coughing
  • Noisy breathing called "stridor," which sounds like whistling
  • Strenuous breathing that is often more effortful during inhalation

Diagnosing a Breathing Disorder

Your doctor may choose one or more tests to diagnose your condition, including:

  • Flexible laryngoscopy: This test is used to view the structures of the larynx (throat). A small flexible camera is passed through the nasal passage and down into the throat. A topical anesthetic is used for maximum comfort during the examination. The exam takes around one to two minutes and is not painful.
  • 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 that is slightly longer. At our Center, bronchoscopies are typically performed comfortably in the office while a patient is awake, unless a patient objects. A patient is numbed with topical anesthetic so he/she does not feel the scope entering the airway and there is no gagging or choking. The procedure takes approximately five minutes.

Treatments for Breathing Disorders

We are skilled in a wide range of treatments for breathing disorders, including the following:

  • Speech therapy: Some disorders, such as paradoxical vocal fold movement and cough, can be improved with help from our speech therapists with or without other treatments.
  • Medications: Several medications are used to help in the treatment of breathing disorders, especially chronic cough. These can include allergy medications, inhalers, or medications targeting nerve sensitivity. Steroid injections are often used in the treatment of airway stenosis to keep this condition from getting worse.
  • Office procedures: Cough patients may be recommended for a nerve block treatment, which is a quick office procedure. Steroid injections to prevent airway scarring can also be done while the patient is awake in the office. In addition, our team considers in-office procedures to help manage tracheostomy tubes or dilate areas of airway scarring.
  • Surgical procedures: In combination with a thorough assessment and in-office treatments, some patients may require a procedure in the operating room. These range from minimally invasive endoscopic treatments to large open airway reconstructive surgeries. Many of these patients are cared for in collaboration with our colleagues in the Thoracic Surgery or Interventional Pulmonology departments.