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Diseases reference index «Breathing difficulty - lying down»

Breathing difficulty - lying down

Breathing difficulty while lying down is an abnormal condition in which a person must keep the head elevated (by sitting or standing) to be able to breathe deeply or comfortably. The condition may also cause a person to wake up suddenly during the night feeling short of breath (paroxysmal nocturnal dyspnea).

Considerations

This is a common complaint in people with some types of heart or lung problems. Sometimes the problem is subtle. People may only notice it when they realize that sleep is more comfortable with lots of pillows under their head, or their head in a propped-up position.

Causes

  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Cor pulmonale
  • Heart failure
  • Hypertensive heart disease
  • Obesity (does not directly cause difficulty breathing while lying down but often aggravates other conditions)
  • Panic disorder
  • Sleep apnea
  • Snoring

Home Care

Your health care provider may prescribe treatment for breathing difficulty while lying down. The treatment will depend on the specific illness causing the problem.

Weight loss is generally recommended in people who are obese.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

If you have any unexplained difficulty in breathing while lying down, call for an appointment with your health care provider.

What to Expect at Your Office Visit

The health care provider will perform a physical examination and take your medical history.

Medical history questions may include:

  • Did this problem develop suddenly or slowly?
  • Is it getting worse (progressive)?
  • How bad is it?
  • How many pillows do you need to help you breathe comfortably?
  • Is there any ankle, feet, and leg swelling?
  • Do you have difficulty breathing at other times?
  • How tall are you? How much do you weigh?
  • What other symptoms do you have?

The physical examination will include special attention to the heart and lungs (cardiovascular and respiratory systems).

Diagnostic tests that may be performed include the following:

  • Chest x-ray
  • ECG
  • Echocardiogram
  • Pulmonary function tests

You may need to receive supplemental oxygen.

Alternative Names

Waking at night short of breath; Paroxysmal nocturnal dyspnea; PND; Difficulty breathing while lying down; Orthopnea

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