Carolinas HealthCare System
Search Health Information   
 

Breathing difficulty - lying down

Definition

Breathing difficulty while lying down is an abnormal condition in which a person must keep the head raised (by sitting or standing) to be able to breathe deeply or comfortably.

A specific type of breathing difficulty while lying down is paroxysmal nocturnal dyspnea. This condition causes a person to wake up suddenly during the night feeling short of breath.

Alternative Names

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

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.

Common Causes

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.

Call your health care provider if

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 health care provider's office

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:

You may need to receive supplemental oxygen.

References

Hess OM, Carroll JD. Clinical assessment of heart failure. In: Libby P, Bonow RO, Mann DL, Zipes DP, eds. Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 8th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier;2007:chap 23.

Massie BM. Heart failure: pathophysiology and diagnosis. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier;2007:chap 57.

Hobbs R, Boyle A. Heart failure. In: Carey WD, ed. Cleveland Clinic: Current Clinical Medicine 2010. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2010.


Review Date: 1/31/2011
Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington, School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
adam.com
 
About Carolinas HealthCare System
Who We Are
Leadership
Community Benefit
Corporate Financial Information
Diversity & Inclusion
Annual Report
Foundation
Patient Links
Pay Your Bill
Hospital Pre-Registration
Patient Rights
Privacy
Financial Assistance
Quality & Value Reports
Insurance
Careers
Join Carolinas HealthCare System
Physician Careers

For Employees
Carolinas Connect
Connect with Us
Watch Carolinas HealthCare on YoutubeFollow Carolinas HealthCare on TwitterLike Carolinas HealthCare on FacebookContact Carolinas HealthCareJoin Carolinas HealthCare on LinkedInGo to our mobile website.