General Practice 2022

Nocturnal dyspnea paroxística: what é, symptoms and treatment

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Nocturnal dyspnea paroxística: what é, symptoms and treatment
Nocturnal dyspnea paroxística: what é, symptoms and treatment

Paroxysmal nocturnal dyspnea is the shortness of breath that occurs during sleep, causing a sudden feeling of suffocation and causing the person to have to sit down or even get up in search of a more ventilated area to relieve this feeling.

This dyspnea may be accompanied by other signs and symptoms such as intense sweating, coughing and wheezing, which usually improve after a few minutes of sitting or standing.

This type of shortness of breath is almost always a complication that arises in people with heart failure, especially when they are not receiving proper treatment. Therefore, to avoid this symptom, it is necessary to use the medicines recommended by the doctor in order to treat the malfunction of the heart and alleviate the symptoms.

When it may appear

Paroxysmal nocturnal dyspnea usually occurs in people with congestive heart failure, as the heart malfunction causes fluid to accumulate in the bloodstream, in the limbs of the body and, consequently, in the lungs, causing pulmonary congestion and breathing difficulties.

However, this symptom only appears in cases where the disease is decompensated, usually due to lack of adequate treatment or after situations that demand greater performance of the body, such as an infection or after surgery, for example.

How the treatment is done

Paroxysmal nocturnal dyspnea is treated with drugs prescribed by the general practitioner or cardiologist to treat heart failure and reduce the accumulation of fluid in the lungs, and some examples include diuretics such as Furosemide or Spironolactone, antihypertensive drugs such as Enalapril, Captopril or Carvedilol, antiarrhythmics such as Amiodarone (if there is arrhythmia) or cardiotonics such as Digoxin, for example.

Learn more details about how heart failure is treated and which medications to use.

Other types of dyspnea

Dyspnea is a medical term used to say that there is a sensation of shortness of breath and is usually more common in people with some type of heart, lung or circulatory problem.

In addition to paroxysmal nocturnal dyspnea, there are also other types, such as:

  • Orthopnea: shortness of breath when lying down, which is also present in heart failure, in addition to cases of pulmonary congestion or people with asthma and emphysema, for example;
  • Platypnea: is the name given to shortness of breath that appears or worsens with the standing position. This symptom usually occurs in patients with pericarditis, dilated pulmonary vessels or certain heart problems, such as abnormal communication of the heart chambers. This shortness of breath is usually accompanied by another symptom called orthodexia, which is the sudden drop in blood oxygen levels whenever you are in a standing position;
  • Trepopnea: it is a feeling of shortness of breath that occurs whenever the person lies on their side, and that improves when turning to the opposite side. May arise in lung diseases that affect only one lung;
  • Exertional dyspnea: shortness of breath that occurs whenever physical exertion is performed, which usually occurs in people with diseases that compromise the function of the heart or lungs.

Whenever you notice a sensation of shortness of breath that is persistent, intense or that appears accompanied by other symptoms such as dizziness, cough or paleness, for example, it is important to seek medical attention to identify the cause and start treatment. Know how to identify the main causes of shortness of breath and what to do in each case.

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