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Causes of Fatigue, Shortness of Breath and Dizziness

author image Stephanie Chandler
Stephanie Chandler is a freelance writer whose master's degree in biomedical science and over 15 years experience in the scientific and pharmaceutical professions provide her with the knowledge to contribute to health topics. Chandler has been writing for corporations and small businesses since 1991. In addition to writing scientific papers and procedures, her articles are published on Overstock.com and other websites.
Causes of Fatigue, Shortness of Breath and Dizziness
Lack of oxygen flow to the brain results in dizziness. Photo Credit dizziness image by Alexander Oshvintsev from <a href="http://www.fotolia.com">Fotolia.com</a>

The symptoms of fatigue, shortness of breath, and dizziness can seem harmless when they present as individual symptoms. Everyone will feel one or more of these symptoms at some point in their lives. When these symptoms occur together, however, they may indicate the presence of a potentially serious medical condition.

Mitral Valve Prolapse

The heart contains four chambers: the two upper chambers, known as the atria, and two lower chambers, known as the ventricles. Blood pumps through the chambers with the help of valves, which open and close to allow for unidirectional flow. The mitral valve connects the left atrium and the left ventricle.

A defect in the valve causes the flaps, also called leaflets, to be stretchy, a condition known as mitral valve prolapse. Normally oxygen-rich blood flows from the lungs into the left atrium. From there, it flows through the mitral valve into the left ventricle, where it empties into the aorta to reach the cells throughout the body.

In a defective valve, the valve flops back into the left atrium as the heart beats, causing the valve to be leaky, as described by the Cleveland Clinic. This allows blood to backflow into the atrium, decreasing the amount of blood flowing through the body. Common symptoms include fatigue, shortness of breath, and dizziness.


Anemia is a condition involving low levels of red blood cells. Red blood cells, produced in the bone marrow, carry oxygen to all the cells of the body. The function of red blood cells is vital, according to the Franklin Institute. If red blood cells did not provide oxygen to and carry waste away from the cells, they would slowly die. Cells deprived of oxygen do not function efficiently, which results in fatigue. With fewer red blood cells carrying oxygen to the brain, dizziness occurs. Red blood cells exchange carbon dioxide for oxygen in the lungs. A decrease in the number of red blood cells means less exchange is taking place, leading to shortness of breath.

Coronary Artery Disease

Coronary artery disease, the most common form of heart disease, occurs when the arteries leading to the heart become narrow. The build-up of plaque, a substance which consists of fat, cholesterol, calcium, and minerals, causes the arteries to narrow, restricting the flow of blood and, therefore, oxygen, to the heart. A heart deprived of oxygen causes the heart to work harder, resulting in shortness of breath.

The restriction of blood flow to the heart leads to less oxygen-rich blood reaching the tissues of the body, which produces fatigue. A lack of blood and oxygen to the brain causes dizziness. Coronary artery disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States, as reported by the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute.

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