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Editorials |

Do You Speak the Language of Dyspnea?

Donald A. Mahler, MD, FCCP; Andrew Harver, PhD
Author and Funding Information

Affiliations: Lebanon, NH 
 ,  Charlotte, NC 
 ,  Dr. Mahler is Professor of Medicine, Dartmouth Medical School. Dr. Harver is Associate Professor of Psychology, University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

Correspondence to: Donald A. Mahler, MD, FCCP, Dartmouth Medical School, One Medical Center Dr, Lebanon, NH 03756-0001



Chest. 2000;117(4):928-929. doi:10.1378/chest.117.4.928
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Extract

Language is a symbolic form of communication that enables sharing of ideas, thoughts, and–in the medical setting–symptoms. In school, we are taught that words have specific meanings, and physicians learn that the medical history is most important in establishing a diagnosis of the patient’s complaint. Thus, communicating with patients by asking the right questions becomes essential. For instance, extracting the qualities and characteristics of chest pain is necessary in order to differentiate whether the symptom is due to cardiac ischemia, pleural disease, GI disorder (hiatal hernia with reflux, pancreatitis, cholecystitis, or peptic ulcer disease), or a musculoskeletal problem. In this context, it has become increasingly evident that using descriptors of breathlessness can assist physicians and nurses in understanding the language of dyspnea.

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