Pulmonary Edema

Pulmonary Edema is a very serious condition affecting many people worldwide. Read and know what Is Pulmonary Edema as well as its causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment.

Pulmonary Edema Definition

Medical researchers normally define Pulmonary Edema as a condition that leads to abnormal accumulation of fluids in the air-filled spaces (alveoli) of the lungs. This is a complicated disorder that leads to serious complications and can even be life-threatening.

Acute Pulmonary Edema

This is an extremely severe form of Pulmonary Edema in which the air spaces in the lungs get filled with fluid. This has a negative effect on the ability of the lungs to oxygenate blood. The lack of oxygen immediately begins to have an effect on the body. If left untreated, this may turn fatal and cause death of the sufferer.

Negative Pressure Pulmonary Edema

This is another of the Pulmonary Edema types in which the windpipe gets blocked thus forcing entry of fluids into the air spaces instead of oxygen. The fluid gets drawn from the lung tissues and enters the air sacs surrounding the lungs. This commonly happens when a food particle or any other substance enters the windpipe and chokes a person.

Pulmonary Edema Symptoms

Some of the main signs and symptoms of Pulmonary Edema include

Respiratory difficulties

Unusual build-up of fluids in the lungs gives rise to breathing difficulties in sufferers. This can make carrying out normal activities very difficult for the person.

Shortness of breath

The person suffers from breathlessness at times, especially while sleeping on their back. Shortness of air can be temporarily cured by raising the head up from the level of the other parts of the body with pillows. This condition is referred to as “Orthopnea”.

Drowning sensation

Sufferers also experience a sensation that is similar to drowning. This condition is known as “Paroxysmal Noctural Dyspnea” and makes patients wake up from sleep and sit up to breathe properly. Patients also make a gurgling noise while breathing which is similar to the sound of water entering the airways of a person.


Affected people also suffer from restlessness which worsens while they are lying down.


There is often a change in the skin color of sufferers which takes on a visibly pale appearance. The skin may turn blue in color. There may be a Cyanosis or bluish discoloration of the mucus membranes and the skin

Other signs of Pulmonary Edema include wheezing, mental anxiety, coughs, excessive sweat and reduced level of consciousness.

Pulmonary Edema Complications

Sufferers of this disorder may suddenly begin coughing up blood. Bloody froth may also come out of their nose and mouth in some cases. They may become unable to speak properly. People may find them gasping for breath with flared nostrils. Pulmonary Edema patients need to be immediately admitted to hospitals in such cases.

Pulmonary Edema Causes

Some of the main Pulmonary Edema causes are:

Heart failure

Sudden heart failure increases pressure on the veins running through the lungs. Rise in pressure on the blood vessels pushes body fluids into the air sacs of the lungs. The fluid obstructs normal movement of oxygen through the lungs. This results in shortness of breath.

Lung damage

Unusual medical conditions such as severe infection and poisonous gas infection can directly damage the lungs. This can cause a fluid accumulation in the lungs. Fluid build-up in the lungs can also happen due to medicinal side effects and kidney failure.

Lack of air

Low oxygen in atmosphere may also lead to fluid accumulation in the lungs. Exercising at places that are very high above sea level may cause this condition.

Heart attack, hardening or weakening of the cardiac muscle, narrowed or leaked out aortic or mitral valves of the heart and medicinal side effects may also be causes of Pulmonary Edema.

Pulmonary Edema Diagnosis

A health care provider performs the initial diagnosis of the condition with a stethoscope. This helps listen to the sounds produced in the heart and the lungs. If Pulmonary Edema is present, abnormal sounds in the heart and rattles (crackling sounds) in the lungs may be heard. Any increase in heart rate may also be detected with the aid of stethoscope.

Pulmonary Edema Tests

Possible tests for this disorder involves:

Electrocardiogram tests

This helps detect abnormalities in heart rate. It can also predict an impending heart attack.


This involves an ultrasound examination of the heart. An Echocardiogram can detect problems like narrow or leaky heart valves, fluid accumulation in the heart or a weakened cardiac muscle.

Chest X-ray

This helps reveal an enlarged heart or build-up of fluids in the air-filled sacs surrounding the lungs.

Blood tests

Blood tests help detect any abnormalities in bloodstream, impaired kidney functions and reduction in blood cell count. A Complete Blood Count (CBC) can also help detect conditions like Anemia.


Catheterization may be required at times to examine the lungs. This involves introducing a catheter into the body of the patient.

Pulmonary Edema Treatment

The treatment of Pulmonary Edema, particularly in the initial stages, includes providing oxygen to patients through face masks or small plastic tubes called Prongs. Ventilator (breathing machine) support may become necessary in such cases.

One or more medicines may be used to provide relief to patients from different symptoms of this condition. These include

Blood pressure medications

High blood pressure is one of the most important factors for this disorder. Medicines can be used to bring blood pressure level to normal.


These are commonly used to take out excess fluids from the lungs of the affected person.


These have a morphine-like effect on the human body and are used to provide relief from shortness of breath (Orthopnea).


It helps make the blood thin in nature. This makes it easy for the blood to deliver oxygen through tiny capillaries.


Antibiotic medications are helpful in treatment for Pulmonary Edema caused by Pneumonia. Acute Pulmonary Edema is often a result of Pneumonia.

Pulmonary Edema Prognosis

If treatment is carried out in time, this condition can be managed successfully. However, a delay in cure may complicate the disorder and cause serious complexities. However, acute cases of the condition may turn fatal despite treatment. Life-threatening conditions may arise when excessive damage is done to the lungs and other organs.

If you find yourself or any other person in your person suffering from symptoms of this disorder, start immediate medical treatment. Early diagnosis and cure will help avert all possible complications and ensure safety of health for you.






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