Pulmonary Edema

Overview of Pulmonary Edema

Pulmonary edema (پھیپھڑے کی سوجن ) is a condition in which your lungs are filled with fluid. The lungs can't get enough oxygen which results in shortness of breath.

Pulmonary edema (پھیپھڑے کی سوجن /Phaprey ki sojan) is a condition in which lungs are filled with fluid. Due to fluid, the lungs can't get enough oxygen which results in shortness of breath. Usually, heart diseases cause pulmonary edema. But it can also occur due to other reasons such as toxic chemicalstravel to high altitudespneumonia and trauma to the chest wall.
If it develops suddenly, seeks immediate medical care because it is a fatal condition or disease. Treatment approaches for pulmonary edema vary, depending on the cause of it.


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Signs and Symptoms of Pulmonary Edema

Symptoms of pulmonary edema vary with the particular type such as:

Sudden (acute) Pulmonary Edema Signs and Symptoms:

  • Extreme shortness of breath or difficulty breathing (dyspnea)
  • Wheezing or gasping for breath
  • A feeling of suffocating or drowning
  • Anxiety, restlessness or a sense of apprehension
  • Cold, clammy skin
  • A rapid, irregular heartbeat (palpitations)
  • A cough that produces frothy sputum that may be tinged with blood
  • Blue-tinged lips

Long-term (chronic) Pulmonary Edema Signs and Symptoms

  • More shortness of breath than normal when you're physically active
  • Difficulty breathing when you're lying flat
  • Difficulty breathing with exertion
  • Wheezing
  • Rapid weight gain
  • Fatigue
  • Swelling in your lower extremities

High-Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE) Signs and Symptoms


  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath after exertion, which progresses to shortness of breath at rest
  • Difficulty walking uphill, which progresses to difficulty walking on flat surfaces
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Chest discomfort
  • A cough that produces frothy sputum that may be tinged with blood
  • Headaches, which may be the first symptom
  • A rapid, irregular heartbeat (palpitations)


Types of Pulmonary Edema

There are three main types of pulmonary edema such as:

  • Sudden/Acute Pulmonary Edema: This type of edema occurs suddenly and is life-threatening.
  • Long-term/Chronic Pulmonary Edema: This type of edema develops slowly and is chronic.
  • High-Altitude Pulmonary Edema: This type of edema occurs due to travelling and exercising at high altitudes.


Causes of Pulmonary Edema

Pulmonary edema can be caused by different reasons such as:

  • Congestive Heart Failure

Congestive heart failure (CHF) mostly causes pulmonary edema. Because in this condition, the pumping ability of the heart muscles is affected. Due to this, fluid pressure is increased on the small blood vessels of the lungs. Normally, lungs take oxygen from the atmosphere and dissolve it in the blood that is supplied to the body. But in pulmonary edema, the lungs can’t perform this function which deprives the body of oxygen.

  • Other Medical Conditions

Some other less common medical conditions that can cause pulmonary edema are:

  • Sudden high blood pressure
  • Heart attack, or other heart diseases
  • Kidney failure
  • Leaking, narrowed, or damaged heart valves
  • Pneumonia
  • Severe sepsis of the blood, or blood poisoning caused by infection
  • Lung damage caused by severe infection
  • External Factors

Some external factors can also cause pulmonary edema by putting pressure on the lungs. These factors include:


  • Lung damage caused by inhalation of toxins
  • High altitude exposure
  • Illicit drug use or drug overdose
  • Near drowning
  • Severe trauma
  • Major injury

Risk Factors of Pulmonary Edema

Some common risk factors of pulmonary edema are:

  • Heart problems
  • History of lung disease, such as tuberculosis (TB) or chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD)
  • Vascular (blood) disorders
  • History of pulmonary edema

Health-Related Complications of Pulmonary Edema

Some of the complications of pulmonary edema are:


  • Lower extremity and abdominal swelling
  • Congestion and swelling of the liver
  • Left untreated, acute pulmonary edema can be deadly. In some instances, it may be fatal even if you receive treatment
  • A buildup of fluid in the membranes that surround your lungs (pleural effusion)



It is not possible to completely prevent pulmonary edema. However, people having high risks can prevent complications by taking care of their body and seeking immediate medical care.


  • Visit your doctor regularly
  • Get a pneumonia vaccine
  • Get the flu vaccine, especially if you have heart-related issues
  • Keep taking diuretics as per the doctor’s prescription after an episode of pulmonary edema to prevent its recurrence


Physical examination is performed by using a stethoscope to check for excessive fluid in the lungs and for other symptoms of pulmonary edema  such as:

  • An increased heart rate
  • Any abnormal heart sounds
  • Rapid breathing
  • A crackling sound from your lungs

Additional tests will be performed to confirm pulmonary edema include:


Treatment of Pulmonary Edema | When to Consult a Doctor

Pulmonary edema is a serious medical condition that requires immediate treatment:

  • Oxygen is the first line of treatment that can be provided through an oxygen mask, nasal cannula, or positive pressure mask. 
  • Preload Reducers: These reduce the pressure exerted on the lungs and heart by the fluids. Diuretics are also recommended for this purpose. 
  • Afterload Reducers: These medications reduce pressure on the heart by dilating the blood vessels. 
  • Heart medications: These medications regulate your pulse, decrease high blood pressure, and reduce pressure in arteries and veins.
  • Morphine: Morphine is used to relieve stress and shortness of breath. But this drug has risks, therefore its medical use is reduced. 
  • In severe cases, patients with pulmonary edema require intensive care and machine ventilators. 

If you experience symptoms such as shortness of breath, or feeling of suffocation (dyspnea) consult a Cardiologist/Pulmonologist as soon as possible.