Orthopnea is the sensation of difficulty breathing when lying down that is relieved by assuming an upright position. Orthopnea is ultimately caused by increased pressure in the blood vessels of the lungs, and this most often occurs in relation to heart failure. Heart failure can have many causes, all of which can cause the symptom of orthopnea. Orthopnea may range from mild to severe. In certain cases, diseases of the lungs can also cause orthopnea, such as when excess fluid or mucus is present.
The symptom of orthopnea is sometimes described in terms of the number of pillows needed to sleep comfortably or to prop oneself up to improve breathing. For example, "three pillow orthopnea" means that a person requires three pillows' worth of support to restore comfortable breathing. Other associated symptoms, depending on the cause of the orthopnea, can include swelling of the feet and ankles, coughing, wheezing, chest pain, fatigue, weight gain, and waking up feeling breathless or short of breath.
Other causes of orthopnea
- Drug Overdose or Reaction
- High-Altitude Pulmonary Edema
- Large Goiter
- Paralysis of the Diaphragm Muscle
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Causes of Orthopnea
Asthma is a condition in which hyperreactive airways constrict and result in symptoms like wheezing, coughing, and shortness of breath. Causes of asthma include genetics, environmental factors, personal history of allergies, and other factors. Asthma is diagnosed by a physician based on a patient's family history and results from lung function tests and other exams. Inhaled corticosteroids (ICS) and long-acting bronchodilators (LABAs) are used in the treatment of asthma. Generally, the prognosis for a patient with asthma is good. Exposure to allergens found on farms may protect against asthma symptoms.
Restrictive cardiomyopathy, the rarest form of cardiomyopathy, is a condition in which the walls of the lower chambers of the heart (the ventricles) are abnormally rigid and lack the flexibility to expand as the ventricles fill with blood. The pumping or systolic function of the ventricle may be normal but the diastolic function (the ability of the heart to fill with blood) is abnormal. Therefore, it is harder for the ventricles to fill with blood, and with time, the heart loses the ability to pump blood properly, leading to heart failure.
COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease)
COPD or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is a lung condition caused by smoking tobacco, exposure to secondhand smoke, and/or air pollutants. Conditions that accompany COPD include chronic bronchitis, chronic cough, and emphysema. Symptoms of COPD include shortness of breath, wheezing, and chronic cough. Treatment of COPD includes GOLD guidelines, smoking cessation, medications, and surgery. The life expectancy of a person with COPD depends on the stage of the disease.
COPD vs. Asthma (Differences and Similarities)
COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and asthma both have common symptoms like coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and a tight feeling in the chest. COPD is caused by tobacco smoking, while asthma is caused by your inherited genetic makeup and their interactions with the environment. Risk factors for asthma are obesity, exposure to cigarette smoke (even secondhand smoke), and personal history of hay fever. There is no cure for either disease, but symptoms can be managed with medication. A person with asthma has a better prognosis and life expectancy than someone with COPD.
COPD vs. Emphysema
COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) is the term doctors and other healthcare professionals use to describe a group of serious, progressive (worsens over time), chronic lung diseases that include emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and sometimes asthma. The number one cause of COPD or emphysema, is smoking, and smoking is the third leading cause of death in the US.
Dilated cardiomyopathy causes the heart muscles to progressively enlarge and weaken, reducing the ability of the heart to pump enough blood. Check out the center below for more medical references on heart disease, including multimedia (slideshows, images, and quizzes), related diseases, treatment, diagnosis, medications, and prevention or wellness.
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Emphysema, Chronic Bronchitis, and Colds
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Heart failure (congestive) is caused by many conditions including coronary artery disease, heart attack, cardiomyopathy, and conditions that overwork the heart. Symptoms of heart failure include congested lungs, fluid and water retention, dizziness, fatigue and weakness, and rapid or irregular heartbeats. There are two types of congestive heart failure, systolic or left-sided heart failure; and diastolic or right-sided heart failure. Treatment, prognosis, and life-expectancy for a person with congestive heart failure depends upon the stage of the disease.
High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)
High blood pressure (hypertension) is a disease in which pressure within the arteries of the body is elevated. About 75 million people in the US have hypertension (1 in 3 adults), and only half of them are able to manage it. Many people do not know that they have high blood pressure because it often has no has no warning signs or symptoms. Systolic and diastolic are the two readings in which blood pressure is measured. The American College of Cardiology released new guidelines for high blood pressure in 2017. The guidelines now state that blood normal blood pressure is 120/80 mmHg. If either one of those numbers is higher, you have high blood pressure. The American Academy of Cardiology defines high blood pressure slightly differently. The AAC considers 130/80 mm Hg. or greater (either number) stage 1 hypertension. Stage 2 hypertension is considered 140/90 mm Hg. or greater. If you have high blood pressure you are at risk of developing life threatening diseases like stroke and heart attack.REFERENCE: CDC. High Blood Pressure. Updated: Nov 13, 2017.
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Pleural Effusion (Fluid in the Pleural Space)
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Pneumonia is inflammation of the lungs caused by fungi, bacteria, or viruses. Symptoms and signs include cough, fever, shortness of breath, and chills. Antibiotics treat pneumonia, and the choice of the antibiotic depends upon the cause of the infection.
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Pulmonary Embolism (Blood Clot in the Lung)
A pulmonary embolism (PE) occurs when a piece of a blood clot from deep vein thrombosis (DVT) breaks off and travels to an artery in the lung where it blocks the artery and damages the lung. The most common symptoms of a pulmonary embolism are shortness of breath, chest pain, and a rapid heart rate. Causes of pulmonary embolism include prolonged immobilization, certain medications, smoking, cancer, pregnancy, and surgery. Pulmonary embolism can cause death if not treated promptly.
Sleep apnea is defined as a reduction or cessation of breathing during sleep. The three types of sleep apnea are central apnea, obstructive apnea (OSA), and a mixture of central and obstructive apnea. Central sleep apnea is caused by a failure of the brain to activate the muscles of breathing during sleep. OSA is caused by the collapse of the airway during sleep. OSA is diagnosed and evaluated through patient history, physical examination and polysomnography. There are many complications related to obstructive sleep apnea. Treatments are surgical and non-surgical.
What Does Orthopnea Mean?
When you find it difficult to breathe while lying down because of the accumulation of fluids in your lungs, it is known as orthopnea. Usually, it takes time to have a sudden onset. You may wake up from sleep because of lack of oxygen.