Pulmonary Edema (cont.)
Siamak T. Nabili, MD, MPH
Dr. Nabili received his undergraduate degree from the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), majoring in chemistry and biochemistry. He then completed his graduate degree at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). His graduate training included a specialized fellowship in public health where his research focused on environmental health and health-care delivery and management.
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
In this Article
- What is pulmonary edema?
- What causes pulmonary edema?
- What are the risk factors for pulmonary edema?
- What are the symptoms of pulmonary edema?
- When should I seek medical care for pulmonary edema?
- How is pulmonary edema diagnosed?
- What is the treatment for pulmonary edema?
- What are the complications of pulmonary edema?
- How can pulmonary edema be prevented?
- Pulmonary Edema At A Glance
What causes pulmonary edema?
As mentioned earlier, pulmonary edema can be broadly divided into cardiogenic and non-cardiogenic causes. Some of the common causes are listed below.
Cardiogenic causes of pulmonary edema
Cardiogenic causes of pulmonary edema results from high pressure in the blood vessels of the lung due to poor heart function. Congestive heart failure due to poor heart pumping function (arising from various causes such as arrhythmias and diseases or weakness of the heart muscle), heart attacks, or abnormal heart valves can lead to accumulation of more than the usual amount of blood in the blood vessels of the lungs. This can, in turn, cause the fluid from the blood vessels to be pushed out to the alveoli as the pressure builds up.
Non-cardiogenic pulmonary edema
Non-cardiogenic pulmonary edema can be commonly caused by the following:
- Acute respiratory distress
syndrome (ARDS), a potentially serious condition
caused by severe infections, trauma, lung injury, inhalation of toxins, lung
infections, cocaine smoking, or
radiation to the lungs. In ARDS, the integrity
of the alveoli become compromised as a result of underlying inflammatory
response, and this leads to leaky alveoli that can fill up with fluid from the
- Kidney failure and inability to excrete fluid from the
body can cause fluid build-up in the blood vessels, resulting in pulmonary
edema. In people with advanced kidney disease,
dialysis may be necessary to remove the excess body
- High altitude pulmonary edema, which can happen due to rapid ascent to high
altitudes of more than 10,000 feet.
- Brain trauma, bleeding in the brain (intracranial
hemorrhage), severe seizures, or brain surgery can sometimes result in fluid
accumulation in the lungs, causing neurogenic pulmonary edema.
- A rapidly expanding lung can sometimes cause
re-expansion pulmonary edema. This may happen in cases when the lung collapses
(pneumothorax) or a large amount of fluid around the lung (pleural effusion) is
removed, resulting in rapid expansion of the lung. This can result in pulmonary
edema on the affected side only (unilateral pulmonary edema).
- Rarely, an overdose on heroin or
methadone can lead to pulmonary edema.
- Aspirin overdose or
chronic high dose use of aspirin can lead to aspirin
intoxication, especially in the elderly, which may cause pulmonary edema.
- Other more rare causes of non-cardiogenic pulmonary edema may include pulmonary embolism (blood clot which has traveled to the lungs), transfusion-related acute lung injury (TRALI), some viral infections, or eclampsia in pregnant women.
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