Paroxysmal Nocturnal Dyspnea Definition and All About Dyspnea

Paroxysmal nocturnal dyspnea (PND) is a sensation of shortness of breath that awakens the patient after 1 or 2 hours of sleep. The patient cannot get enough sleep and is usually relieved in the upright position.

And now we see all about Paroxysmal nocturnal dyspnea.

If you feel that you have difficulty breathing, that condition is known as dyspnea. This condition occurs most likely in people with heart or lung disease.
But every time it is not related to any disease condition, it can also feel after exercise, high altitude, tight clothing, prolonged periods of bed rest, and sedentary lifestyle.

The simple meaning of dyspnea is shortness of breath. It is also known as “air hunger,” and it is an uncomfortable feeling.

Dyspnea is also known as breathlessness. Dyspnea may cause problems such as

  • Constipation or poor nutrition, 
  • Psychosocial problem related to poor self-esteem 
  • Problems in carrying out activities of daily living.
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Table of Contents

Causes of dyspnea

  • Exercise
  • Traveling to high altitude 
  • Prolong bed rest
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Going through significant temperature changes
  • Asthma
  • Heart problem
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD),
  • Interstitial lung disease,
  • Pneumonia
  • Psychogenic problems like anxiety

Types of Dyspnea

Acute Dyspnea

Acute dyspnea is defined as shortness of breath that starts suddenly.

Reasons for Acute Dyspnea

  • Asthma
  • Anxiety
  • Pneumonia
  • Inhaling something that blocks breathing passageways
  • Allergic reactions
  • Anemia
  • Severe loss of blood, 
  • Exposure to dangerous levels of carbon monoxide
  • Heart failure
  • Low blood pressure
  • A blood clot in an artery
  • Collapsed lung
  • Hiatal hernia

Chronic Dyspnea

In Chronic Dyspnea, a person experiences shortness of breath for over a month or more.

Causes of Chronic Dyspnea

  • Asthmatic condition 
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • Excessive weight gain 
  • Sometimes specific lung condition and heart condition also leads to shortness of breath.
  • Inflammation or infection of the larynx and trachea 
  • Traumatic lung injury
  • Cancer of the lung
  • Tuberculosis of the lung
  • Infection or inflammation of the lung tissues 
  • Pulmonary edema
  • Cardiomyopathy affects the heart muscles
  • Heart rhythm problems
  • Pericarditis
  • Heart problems

Symptoms of Chronic Dyspnea

  • Feeling suffocated as a result of breathing difficulties
  • labored breathing
  • Rapid and shallow breathing
  • Tightness in the chest
  • Increased heartbeats 
  • Wheezing
  • Coughing

If Dyspnea occurs suddenly and symptoms are severe, it may signify a critical medical condition. 

I have already covered: Asthma

Diagnosis of dyspnea

  • It is elementary for a doctor to diagnose dyspnea by completing a physical examination and deep history collection.
  • Chest x-ray to rule out pneumonia and pulmonary edema
  • Computed tomography (CT) images to rule out pulmonary embolism.
  • An electrocardiogram (ECG) to detect heart problems
  • Spirometry tests (for lung capacity)

Here are 2 articles that you can refer to learn more about dyspnea

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How to treat dyspnea

  • Treatments depend on the type and severity of symptoms
  • The treatment of shortness of breath depends on underlying causes
  • Give Oxygen to reduce the hypoxia
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs 
  • Bronchodilators
  • Anti-bacterial to prevent bacterial infection
  • Anti anxiolytic drugs
  • some breathing techniques


  • Avoid smoking
  • Avoid passive smokers
  • Reduce weight
  • Reduce the stress factors


  • Physical therapy is helping the patient to reduce the breathing problems;
  • Active-assisted cough techniques,
  • Volume augmentation such as breath stacking,
  • Education about body position and ventilation patterns 
  • Movement strategies to facilitate breathing.

When to consult the doctor

  • Shortness of breath is not a common problem you have to consult with the doctor if you have 
  • Swelling in the feet and ankles
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Whistling sound

Here are a few hand-picked guides for you to read next:


Heart failure is one of the most severe causes of PND. In addition, the course of the disease varies a lot from one person to the next. Heart failure is typically long-term and usually gets worse over time, but several available treatments can slow down its progression and help to prevent acute dyspnea episodes.

Other conditions that cause PND include asthma, stomach acid reflux, or sleep apnea, generally highly treatable. However, if you experience PND, you should make an appointment with a doctor to identify the cause.

Also remember to seek emergency medical attention if you experience severe shortness of breath or chest pain.

Still have any questions about dyspnea? Ask in the comment section!

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