What is cardiac asthma?
Answer From Rekha Mankad, M.D.
Cardiac asthma is not a form of asthma. It's a type of coughing or wheezing that occurs with left heart failure. Depending on how severe the symptoms are, this wheezing can be a medical emergency.
Heart failure can cause fluid to build up in the lungs (pulmonary edema) and in and around the airways. This can cause shortness of breath, coughing and wheezing similar to the signs and symptoms of asthma.
True asthma is a chronic condition caused by inflammation of the airways, which can narrow them, leading to breathing difficulties. True asthma has nothing to do with fluid in the lungs or heart disease.
The distinction is important because treatments for asthma and heart failure are different. Treatments for heart failure can help improve the symptoms of both heart failure and cardiac asthma. Overusing treatments for true asthma, such as rescue inhalers, could be harmful and potentially lead to a worsening of symptoms.
Jan. 20, 2022
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See more Expert Answers
- Heart failure. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/heart-failure. Accessed March 10, 2021.
- Irwin RS. Evaluation of wheezing illnesses other than asthma in adults. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed March 10, 2021.
- Mankad R (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic. March 23, 2021.
- Asthma. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/asthma#. Accessed March 10, 2021.
- Ahmed A, et al. Evaluation of the adult with dyspnea in the emergency department. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed March 10, 2021.