What are the signs of respiratory problems? Respiratory symptoms are common symptoms of lung or heart conditions, emotions, or injury. The medical terms for respiratory symptoms include dyspnea (difficulty breathing), tachypnea (rapid breathing), hypopnea (shallow breathing), hyperpnea (deep breathing), and apnea (absence of breathing). Breathing problems may occur in conditions affecting the lungs alone or may be seen in association with more generalized conditions, such as dehydration or infections. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD, includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis) and asthma are common causes of respiratory symptoms. Other common causes include infections, such as pneumonia or acute bronchitis. Inflammation causes respiratory symptoms, as seen in pleuritis or chronic bronchitis. Depending on the cause, respiratory symptoms may originate from one or both lungs and may be accompanied by rapid heart rate (tachycardia), low blood pressure (hypotension), or other cardiovascular signs and symptoms. Heart conditions can lead to respiratory symptoms, especially in severe cases, such as congestive cardiac failure. Anxiety and panic attacks are common causes of respiratory symptoms and include rapid breathing that may result in hyperventilation and fainting. Airway obstruction causes respiratory symptoms that may include rapid shallow breathing. Lung injury from chest trauma can also lead to respiratory symptoms. In some cases, respiratory symptoms can be a sign of a serious or life-threatening condition. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) for serious symptoms, such as sweating and severe difficulty breathing, severe sharp chest pain that may be combined with pale or blue lips, fast heart rate, high fever (higher than 101 degrees Fahrenheit), fainting, or change in level of consciousness or lethargy. Seek prompt medical care if you are being treated for respiratory symptoms but mild symptoms recur or are persistent.