Q. Why do I wake up with shortness of breath and numbness in my right arm?

Answered by
Dr. Prathap
and medically reviewed by iCliniq medical review team.
This is a premium question & answer published on May 08, 2017 and last reviewed on: Oct 05, 2019

Hello doctor,

I am a 32 year old male, who weighs 115 lbs and I am 5.10 feet tall. I woke up after an hour of sleep with shortness of breath and numbness in my right arm. I have been suffering from a cold, for a week now. Five days ago I boarded a flight, I got congested during the first leg of the flight, and got no sleep. On the second leg after dozing off briefly, I woke up feeling numb in my arms, particularly the right arm, and shortness of breath that quickly spiraled into extreme shortness of breath, a racing heart, and hot flushes. The airline crew placed me on oxygen for the remaining two hours of the flight. My blood pressure was on the higher side and pulse came back fine as well. When I landed, the airport clinic gave me Amoxicillin and checked my vitals, and they were stable, so they released me.

After two nights of difficult or no sleep, I went to a hospital, where my blood pressure was138/93 mmHg. So, the doctor prescribed me a Pseudoephedrine and Paracetamol, to take along with the Amoxicillin. I have been taking them every 8 hours as prescribed, and they appear to be helping. They performed an EKG and found nothing wrong.

This brings me to the current problem. I am still experiencing difficulty in sleeping even with the medication. I managed to doze off for an hour first thing last night but woke up with shortness of breath and my right arm numb. I was sleeping on my back and did not roll on the arm. I recovered and tried for several hours to fall back to sleep. Why is only my arm going numb? Is it deprived of oxygen due to the cold? If so, why not other limbs too? I am normally a snorer, so I figured that the chest congestion is leaving me short of breath. Any thoughts on this, and what else can I do?



Welcome to

I would give my opinion regarding this, but it may not be the final diagnosis as I have not examined you.

Shortness of breath after lying down for an hour implies there is a pulmonary congestion, that is pooling of blood in lungs due to weakened heart. It is called orthopnea, which is a sign of heart disease. The likely cause could be a viral myocarditis, as you have had a recent journey to a new place.

Also, this can be possible in a patient with asthma, even though the probability is low. Coming to the arm pain, it cannot be explained with the cause mentioned above. There can be a local pathology or a compression near the shoulder to the brachial plexus. I suggest you get a chest x-ray, echocardiogram, and ECG (electrocardiography). If possible, I want to see the ECG, as it is very tricky to interpret the ECG.

Revert with more information to an internal medicine physician online -->

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