Cardiac Asthma: A Lesser-Known Sign Of Heart Failure
Heart failure can cause asthma-like symptoms

Heart failure can cause asthma-like symptoms. Cardiac Asthma is often confused with bronchial asthma. Read on to know the difference.

Are you aware of this condition called "Cardiac Asthma"? It is often confused with asthma, but cardiac asthma is different from bronchial asthma. However, cardiac asthma and bronchial asthma share some similar symptoms such as breathlessness, wheezing, and extreme discomfort. But the resemblance ends there.

Cardiac asthma is actually breathlessness from cardiac causes, generally, heart failure, according to says Dr Kaushal Chhatrapati, MD DM, FACC FSCAI FESC, Interventional Cardiologist.

The expert sheds further light on the condition.

What causes cardiac asthma?

If the heart muscle becomes weak due to heart attack (the most common cause) or other reasons, its ability to pump the blood forward gets affected. This leads to the fall in the heart's ejection fraction or contractile force. Normal Ejection Fraction is 65 per cent. Whenever this drops to 40 per cent or less, heart failure ensues. The blood then gets accumulated in the lungs. When the blood leaks into the minute air sacs, it hampers exchange of gases, causing a drop in oxygen level in the blood. When this happens, the person experiences coughing, difficulty in breathing and wheezing. This is "Cardiac Asthma."

Bronchial Asthma and Cardiac Asthma: How to tell them apart

It is not difficult to differentiate between Bronchial Asthma and Cardiac Asthma. Dr Chhatrapati shares a few points that can help you to tell them apart.

  • History of allergy, and tendency to have asthma attacks from young age suggest Bronchial Asthma. Whereas, history of heart disease, blood pressure and or Diabetes indicate Cardiac Asthma.
  • Pink frothy sputum indicates cardiac asthma while coughing up sticky, viscid sputum is a symbol of bronchial asthma.
  • Inhalers or nebulization of asthma medications may offer quick relief in case of bronchial asthma. In cardiac asthma, bronchodilators alone may not help. Diuretics (IV urine making drugs) can provide a rapid relief from Cardiac Asthma symptoms.
  • History and Pulmonary Function Tests can confirm Bronchial Asthma, while ECG may help identify the underlying heart disease in Cardiac Asthma. However, 2 D Echocardiography is the definitive test to diagnose Cardiac Asthma, along with some blood tests.

How to prevent cardiac asthma?

To prevent cardias asthma, Dr Chhatrapati suggests:

  • If you have high blood pressure, diabetes, or heart diseases, take medicines prescribed by your doctor regularly.
  • If you have low Ejection Fraction (EF), limit salt and water intake as per doctor's advice.
  • Both Cardiac and Bronchial Asthma are triggered by infections of lungs. So, taking seasonal Influenza and Pneumococcal vaccines are recommended to prevent these conditions.

Cardiac Asthma is a dangerous disease. However, with timely and proper treatment, many patients can live a healthy life, he adds.

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