Cardiac asthma is caused due to left heart failure and pulmonary edema (collection of fluid in lungs). The symptoms of cardiac asthma such as wheezing, cough, and breathlessness mimic with regular form of asthma and for this reason it is called cardiac asthma. However, the etiology of cardiac asthma is different from true asthma that occurs due to inflammation and narrowing of air passages.
In cardiac asthma the problem is related with heart. The weakened left side of heart is unable to pump blood efficiently and as a result there is collection of fluid in the lungs which in turn leads to narrowing of the air passage.Oxygen saturation is also hampered which worsens the condition.
Cardiac asthma can develop due to acute heart attack, valvular disease, severe hypertension, etc. Treatment is aimed in improving the output of blood from heart and at the same time control pulmonary edema.
What Causes Cardiac Asthma?
The cause of cardiac asthma and pulmonary edema is failure of efficient heart pumping. The commonest cause is mitral valve disease, aortic valve stenosis, acute heart attack, and hypertension. Sometimes pulmonary edema develops in mountaineers who climb altitudes above 2000 meters without acclimatization.
Usually cardiac asthma occurs in elderly individuals, but sometimes it can also affect young person especially young person with valvular heart disease.Other causes which are less common can also cause cardiac asthma. Renal artery narrowing, tumor in arterial wall, or a blood clot in heart can lead to pulmonary edema.
Symptoms Of Cardiac Asthma
The symptoms of cardiac asthma may depend on the severity of condition. It may also vary from one person to another. In its severe form the patient becomes acutely breathless and restless. Along with shortness in breath he may have cough and wheezing in his chest. Often breathlessness occurs during night which wakes him up from sleep. He feels more comfortable sitting upright than lying down.
In severe form, patient is unable to walk few steps due to breathlessness. Swelling in ankles more during daytime is often characteristic symptom which is not observed in normal asthma. Patient may also have swelling on face. Some patients may cough out frothy and pink sputum.
Treatment Options For Cardiac Asthma
The main aim of treatment is to improve cardiac output so that less amount of fluid gets accumulated in the lungs. In case if the problem is due to defective heart valve or a hole in the wall separating chambers of heart, surgical correction will help to prevent further deterioration of the condition.
- If the condition is caused due to other reasons such as weak heart muscles or enlarged heart, controlling the symptoms with medications and improving blood flow is the focus of treatment.
- Diuretics play important role in left heart failure or cardiac asthma. It helps to flush out built up of fluid from lungs.
- Bronchodilators allow more air to flow to lungs as they open up the air passages. Bronchodilators along with oxygen supplementation will be effective in treatment of cardiac asthma.
- Corticosteroids are used as they are known to constrict blood vessels and prevent release of cytokines. They are used only when the patient does not respond to other medications.