Pulmonary edema is a condition caused by abnormal accumulation of fluid in the interstitial spaces and alveoli of the lungs, making it difficult to breathe. The accumulation of fluid may be due to heart failure, pneumonia, certain toxins, medications and exercising at high altitudes.

On the basis of its causes, pulmonary edema can be categorized as cardiogenic and non-cardiogenic pulmonary edema. Cardiogenic pulmonary edema is caused by higher blood pressure in pulmonary blood vessels due to malfunctioning of heart.  Increased pressure in the pulmonary capillaries associated with congestive heart failure is one of the major causative factors of pulmonary edema.

Non-cardiogenic pulmonary edema is caused by smoking, lung infection, kidney failure and inflammation of lung alveoli. Rapid and sudden movement towards the significantly higher altitude (> 10000 feet) can also cause non-cardiogenic pulmonary edema.

Irrespective of causes, the compromised oxygen supply to some of the vital organs such as brain can cause long lasting complications.

   Symptoms

  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing
  • Increased breathing rate
  • Fatigue and suffocation,
  • Discoloration of skin due to lower oxygen supply and paleness
  • Excessive sweating
  • Cold, clammy skin
  • Anxiety and depression

Treatment And Prevention

Treatment of cardiogenic pulmonary edema includes administration of oxygen along with use of drugs for bronchioles dilation. Diuretics are used in order to remove the excess of fluid from the body. The non-cardiogenic pulmonary edema is mostly treated with antibiotics according to the underlying causes.

Preventing conditions and lifestyle factors that risk pulmonary edema can lower risk of developing condition which include keeping the blood pressure under control, lowering cholesterol, quitting smoking, reduce salt in the diet, eating a well-balanced diet, regular exercise and maintaining weight.