What words best capture the symptom of breathlessness in Uganda?

  • Jjukira Vianney
  • Immaculate Nakitende
  • Henry Kalema
  • Sylivia Namuleme
  • John Kellett


Introduction: Anecdotal experience suggests that Ugandan patients complain infrequently of breathlessness. The Luganda language, spoken in Uganda, does not have one word to express breathlessness but uses various phrases. Therefore, many of these patients may not be able to express what they feel  when they are breathless by a single English word. Our aim was to determine the frequency and severity of the symptoms captured by a Luganda  translation of the Dyspnea-12 (D12) questionnaire, a well validated measure of different dimensions of breathlessness.

Method: All alert non-pregnant adult patients fluent in Luganda who presented to the hospital’s combined outpatient and emergency department were  asked to complete the D12 questionnaire.

Results: Out of 466 patients, 137 (29.4%) had at least one D12 symptom. Patients’ D12 responses expressed as a numerical severity score was only weakly  associated with a respiratory rate >20 bpm. Two questions (“My breathing requires more work” and “My breathing is uncomfortable”) identified  >90% of patients likely to be breathless.

Conclusion: For patients whose first language is Luganda a translation of the D12 questionnaire captures the  symptom of dyspnoea. 

Research Article

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 2309-4613
print ISSN: 2309-4605