Pulmonary Embolism

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Alison Beaver

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What is Pulmonary Edema?

By Darlene Oakley HERWriter

Pulmonary edema happens when fluid builds up in the air pockets (alveoli) of the lungs. This fluid impairs the oxygen/carbon dioxide exchange process described in my emphysema article. Pulmonary edema usually occurs as a result of heart problems particularly heart failure where blood pressure increases in the lungs and fluid pushed into the air pockets in the lungs.

The Causes of Pulmonary Edema

Conditions such as pneumonia can also result in pulmonary edema, as well as direct physical injury to the lung. Exercising at very high altitudes can also cause pulmonary edema (www.nlm.nih.gov). Pulmonary edema may appear as a side effect of a heart attack, leaking or narrow heart valves, or any other disease of the heart (such as cadiomyopathy) that results in the weakening or stiffening of the heart muscle.

Other conditions that may result in pulmonary edema include:

  • Acute respiratory distress syndrome where the structural integrity of the alveoli is compromised because of severe infections, trauma, injury to the lungs, inhalation of toxins, lung infections, cocaine smoking, or radiation to the lungs.
  • Kidney failure which compromises the body's ability to cleanse itself of excess fluid
  • Trauma to the brain resulting in intracranial hemorrhage (bleeding), severe seizures, or surgery can correspondingly result in "neurogenic" pulmonary edema
  • When a lung collapses (pneumothorax) or a large amount of fluid around the lung (pleural effusion) is removed and the lung expands rapidly, the affected side may experience pulmonary edema
  • Overdosing on Aspirin, or those who habitually take a high dose of Aspirin may lead to Aspirin intoxication and pulmonary edema.
  • Other conditions include: heroin or methadone overdose, pulmonary embolism, transfusion-related acute lung injury, some viral infections, or eclampsia in pregnant women
  • Symptoms

    There is a long list of symptoms associated with pulmonary edema including (this list compiled from www.nlm.nih.gov and www.mayoclinic.com):

  • Anxiety
  • Cough
  • Difficulty breathing
  • We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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