What is pulmonary edema?

Pulmonary edema is a buildup of fluid in the lung that limits breathing. Pulmonary edema can be serious and life threatening.

The most common cause of pulmonary edema is heart disease or heart failure, which prevents the heart from pumping effectively and leads to fluid buildup in the lungs and other parts of the body. Damage to the lungs themselves can also cause pulmonary edema. Such damage may be the result of trauma, inhaled toxins, infection, or some medications. Less commonly, exercising at high altitude may lead to pulmonary edema.

The underlying cause of pulmonary edema should be rapidly identified and treated. Treatment will vary greatly depending on the underlying cause but usually includes supplemental oxygen and medication.

Pulmonary edema may be life threatening. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) for serious symptoms, such as chest pain, sweating, or severe difficulty breathing, which may be combined with pale or blue lips and wheezing. Seek prompt medical care if you are being treated for pulmonary edema but mild symptoms recur or are persistent.


What are the symptoms of pulmonary edema?

Many of the symptoms of pulmonary edema are the result of difficulty breathing. Some symptoms may be indicative of the underlying cause of pulmonary edema.

Mild symptoms of pulmonary edema

You may experience pulmonary edema symptoms daily or just once in a while. At times, any of these pulmonary edema symptoms can be severe:


What causes pulmonary edema?

Pulmonary edema occurs when air sacs in the lungs are filled with fluid. Healthy air sacs allow oxygen that you breathe in to enter the bloodstream. In pulmonary edema, the fluid in the air sacs prevents the entry of oxygen. This results in a shortness of breath.

Cardiovascular causes of pulmon... Read more about pulmonary edemacauses


How is pulmonary edema treated?

Treatment of pulmonary edema includes the administration of concentrated oxygen through a face mask, prongs (tiny plastic tubes) in the nostrils, or a breathing tube, depending on the severity.

The underlying cause of pulmonary edema should be rapidly identified and treated. Treatment will vary greatly depending on the underlying cause. For example, treatment of pulmonary edema du... Read more about pulmonary edematreatments

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Sep 20, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Lungs, Breathing and Respiration

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