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 below.
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More Great Links
- Ahmed A, Allman RM, Aronow WS, et al. Diagnosis of heart failure in older adults: predictive value of dyspnea at rest. Arch Gerontol Geriatr. 2004;38:297-307.
- Costanzo MR, Guglin ME, Saltzberg MT, et al. Ultrafiltration versus intravenous diuretics for patients hospitalized for acute decompensated heart failure. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2007; 49:675-683.
- Costanzo MR, Saltzberg M, O'Sullivan J, et al. Early ultrafiltration in patients with decompensated heart failure and diuretic resistance. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2005;46:2047-2051.
- Elkayam U, Hatamizadeh P, Janmohamed M. The challenge of correcting volume overload in hospitalized patients with decompensated heart failure. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2007;49:684-686.
- Mueller C, Frana B, Rodriguez D, et al. Emergency diagnosis of congestive heart failure: impact of signs and symptoms. Can J Cardiol. 2005;21:921-924.
- Wang CS, FitzGerald JM, Schulzer M, et al. Does this dyspneic patient in the emergency department have congestive heart failure? JAMA. 2005;294:1944-1956.