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Paroxysmal Nocturnal Dyspnea


How is paroxysmal nocturnal dyspnea treated?
A cardiac patient looks somewhat skeptically at his tray of low-sodium food, circa 1955.
A cardiac patient looks somewhat skeptically at his tray of low-sodium food, circa 1955.
Orlando/Three Lions/Getty Images

Treatment depends upon the exact cause of the episodes. Doctors generally recommend weight reduction for obese patients, and supplemental oxygen may ease symptoms. If the episodes are due to heart failure, steps are taken to treat fluid overload.

Because a diet high in salt can contribute to fluid overload, doctors generally recommend that people who experience breathing difficulties such as paroxysmal nocturnal dyspnea limit the amount of salt in their diets. In addition to not adding salt at the table, following a low-sodium diet involves avoiding most processed foods (including frozen and canned foods, as well as the majority of fast food and takeout food items). Eating home-cooked meals prepared with herbs and spices instead of salt is one of the most effective ways of getting rid of excess fluid in the body.

In addition to recommending a low-sodium diet, doctors often prescribe medicines known as diuretics ("water pills") to relieve the symptoms of fluid overload. While these methods work for a while, they often become ineffective over time. When that happens, people with fluid overload are typically admitted to the hospital, where they're treated with intravenous medicines like loop diuretics, vasodilator drugs and inotropic drugs. Another procedure, known as ultrafiltration, is available to relieve fluid overload. In ultrafiltration therapy, the person's blood is passed through a filter that removes excess fluid. Then the filtered blood (minus the excess fluid) is returned to the patient.

To learn more about paroxysmal nocturnal dyspnea and heart failure, look at the links on the next page.