What is Cardiac Asthma? – Causes, Symptoms, Treatments

Cardiac asthma is also called paroxysmal nocturnal dyspnea or paroxysmal dyspnea. It is not an asthma in true sense. It is wheezing caused by congestive heart failure. This is a clinical condition because of reflexive blocking and by edema of lungs. This is like asthmatic-type breathing due to blockage of pulmonary circulation. This usually affects people who suffer from shortness of breath and wheezing due to heart failure, if the heart is too weak and cannot pump blood effectively, fluid accumulates in lungs and causes wheezing and shortness of breath.


Usually, cardiac asthma is due to major mechanical heart failure. This may be a life threatening situation, if not checked properly and at right time. In this, heart pumping efficacy is reduced and builds up fluid in lungs. This leads to narrowing of air passages and hence, causes wheezing and other problems.


Cardiac asthma symptoms occur at night after going to bed or with exercise. Excess fluid in lungs causes symptoms like coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath, that imitate asthma. This is a life threatening condition and must consult doctor after noticing the symptoms.

Other symptoms include:

  • Increased heart beat rate and blood pressure
  • Feeling of uneasiness
  • Increased superficial breathing.
  • Swollen ankles


Right diagnosis should be given to the patient with cardiac asthma. Treatment is given to improve the blood pumping of heart with medicines. This is given when the condition is due to improper functioning of heart valve or a hole between heart chambers.

People suffering from cardiac asthma respond well to a combination of supplementary oxygen, heart failure treatment and bronchodilators.

Corticosteroids are prescribed depending on the clinical circumstances and patient’s response to prior treatment. If treatment is given to pure cardiac asthma, it is very effective and wheezing resolves automatically. But these medications need few hours to give good results.

1 response to What is Cardiac Asthma? – Causes, Symptoms, Treatments

  1. Thank You for the article, I have been trying to tell some of the RN’s I work with about the difference, and some of them just dont get it, your article helped.

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