Orthopnea (patient information)
Breathing difficulty - lying down
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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.
What causes Breathing difficulty - lying down?
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- Cor pulmonale
- Heart failure
- Obesity (does not directly cause difficulty breathing while lying down but often aggravates other conditions that lead to it)
- Panic disorder
- Sleep apnea
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?
Diagnostic tests that may be performed include the following:
You may need to receive supplemental oxygen.
When to seek urgent medical care?
If you have any unexplained difficulty in breathing while lying down, call for an appointment with your health care provider.
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.