What Is Cardiac Asthma?

By Burgo, Kate 
March 21, 2017

What Is Cardiac Asthma?

Cardiac asthma is not the same as bronchial asthma, although it causes similar symptoms. Bronchial asthma is triggered by allergies, pollutants, exercise, stress, or lung disease. The small airways in the lungs become irritated and inflamed due to these triggers. This inflammation results in wheezing, coughing, and shortness of breath. Cardiac asthma can produce similar symptoms, but cardiac asthma is caused by the backup of fluid in the left side of the heart. This fluid backup can be the result of a heart that pumps weakly or because of a leaky valve or a heart defect that’s present at birth (congenital). This is a sign of congestive heart failure. 

The difference matters because the treatments for bronchial asthma and cardiac asthma are very different. Bronchial asthma is treated with oral or inhaled medicines that open the airways. The treatments for cardiac asthma depend on the cause (such as heart failure or leaky valve), but may include heart medicines to control blood pressure and remove excess fluid, proper diet, and modified daily activities. If the cause is a leaky valve or congenital heart defect, over time surgery may be needed.


March 21, 2017


An overview of asthma management. UpToDate., Evaluation of acute decompensated heart failure. UpToDate., Evaluation of wheezing illnesses other than asthma in adults. UpToDate., Tanabe, Tsuyoshi. Cardiac Asthma. American College of Chest Physicians. 2012: 1242, 5th ed. pp. 1274-1283., Tanabe, Tsuyoshi. Cardiac Asthma. American Cololege of Chest Physicians. 2012: 1242, 5th ed. pp. 1274-1283.

Reviewed By:  

Fetterman, Anne, RN, BSN,Kang, Steven, MD