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What is nocturnal asthma?

Snehal R. Patel, MD
Emergency Medicine

In simple terms " nocturnal asthma " means asthma attack at night but in layman terms it also suggests " an episode of shortness of breath and wheezing at night ". This could mask a potentially serious condition like " Paroxysmal nocturnal dyspnea " which can present similar way during night.

Paroxysmal nocturnal dyspnea suggests diastolic heart failure which can occur in patients with coronary artery disease, hypertensive heart disease, congestive heart failure etc.

Episodes of shortness of breath with wheezing during nights are not uncommon in patients with obstructive sleep apnea and more than often-such patients are morbidly obese (Body Mass Index above 40) and sometimes have swollen uvula.

In my opinion, patients with nocturnal asthma who do not have classic symptoms or a history suggestive of bronchial asthma must be carefully followed to rule out above conditions.

For many people, asthma symptoms occur at night. This is called nocturnal asthma. Nocturnal asthma can be brought on by a number of factors -- allergens in the bedroom, a drop in body temperature, and heartburn (or GERD, gastroesophageal reflux disease).

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.