Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"Why do I have trouble breathing at night?"
Soon as I lay down in bed, usually on my back. My chest feels funny and I feel like its hard to breathe. Easier on my side, but still kind of scary.
I am sorry to hear that you have difficulty breathing. Did this problem develop suddenly or slowly? Is it getting worse? Do you have it at other times? What other symptoms do you have? Breathing difficulty while lying flat is obviously an abnormal condition. From your description I think you have a condition known as orthopnea. It is a common complaint in people with some types of heart or lung problems. In many patients, it is a subtle symptom, which the patient may complain that he or she can't catch his or her breath lying flat like yourself. Orthopnea is often a symptom of left ventricular heart failure and/or pulmonary edema. It can also occur in those with asthma, chronic bronchitis, sleep apnea or panic disorder as well as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Another similar condition is paroxysmal nocturnal dyspnea which is when you awaken suddenly in the middle of the night feeling short of breath. Since you have unexplained difficulty in breathing while lying down, I recommend that you call for an appointment with a primary care doctor who will take your medical history thoroughly and perform a physical examination which includes special attention to the heart and lungs. Diagnostic tests may also be performed including chest X-ray, ECG, echocardiogram, and pulmonary function tests. If warranted, your doctor may refer you to a specialist for further work-up and treatment.
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