Edema and Related Medical Conditions

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Sunday, October 23, 2005

Pulmonary Edema - Page Two


Your lungs contain millions of small, elastic air sacs called alveoli. With each breath, the air sacs take in oxygen and release carbon dioxide, a waste product of metabolism. Normally, the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide takes place without problems. But sometimes increased pressure in the blood vessels in your lungs forces fluid into the air sacs, filling them with fluid and preventing them from absorbing oxygen — a condition called pulmonary edema.

In most cases, heart problems are the cause of pulmonary edema. But fluid can accumulate in your lungs for other reasons, including lung problems such as pneumonia, exposure to certain toxins and medications, and exercising or living at high elevations.

Acute pulmonary edema is a medical emergency and requires immediate care. Although pulmonary edema can sometimes prove fatal, the outlook is often good when you receive prompt treatment for pulmonary edema along with therapy for the underlying problem.

Signs and Symptoms

Depending on the cause, the symptoms of pulmonary edema may appear suddenly or develop slowly over weeks or months.

Signs and symptoms that come on suddenly are usually severe and may include:

Extreme shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

A feeling of suffocating or drowning

Wheezing or gasping for breath

Anxiety and restlessness

A cough that produces frothy sputum that may be tinged with blood

Excessive sweating

Pale skin

Chest pain when pulmonary edema is caused by coronary artery disease

Signs and symptoms that develop more gradually include:

Difficulty breathing when you're lying flat as opposed to sitting up

Awakening at night with a breathless feeling

Having more shortness of breath than normal when you're physically active

Significant weight gain when pulmonary edema develops as a result of congestive heart failure, a condition in which your heart pumps too little blood to meet your body's needs

If you develop any of these signs or symptoms, call 911 or emergency medical assistance right away. Pulmonary edema can be fatal if not treated.

Mayo Clinic

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Lymphedema People


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