Edema means swelling. Pulmonary edema means swelling in the lungs due to an excess collection of watery fluid. Pulmonary edema develops when the alveoli fill up with excess fluid seeped out of the blood vessels in the lung instead of air. This further causes problems with the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide, resulting in breathing difficulty and poor oxygenation of blood. Patients know this disease as "water in the lungs".
Symptoms of pulmonary edema may include:
- difficulty breathing
- coughing up blood
- anxiety, restlessness
- reduced level of consciousness
- excessive sweating
- chest pain
- gain of weight due to fluid build-up
Pulmonary edema can be caused by different factors. It can be related to:
- cardiogenic causes such as high pressure in the pulmonary vessels, congestive heart failure (poor pumping of the heart), heart attack, heart valve disease
- non-cardiogenic causes: acute respiratory distress syndrome, high altitude pulmonary edema (due to rapid ascending to high altitudes), kidney failure, brain trauma, strong seizures, brain surgery, lung collapse, major injury, heroin overdose, aspirin overdose and rarely, pulmonary embolism.
There are no specific risk factor for pulmonary edema. The risk factors in this case refer to the risk factors for the disease or conditions that cause the pulmonary edema.
The complications of pulmonary edema arise from the complications associated with the underlying cause. Here are some of them:
- poor oxygenation of the blood in the lungs, which means the blood supplied further to the other organs will not be rich in oxygen
- pulmonary hypertension
- weakened right ventricle of the heart
- swelling of the abdomen and lower extremities
- fluid build-up in the lung membrane
- swelling of the liver
Preventive measures can be taken in terms of preventing the causes of pulmonary edema, like preventing heart disease with healthy lifestyle (healthy food, not smoking, less salt, physical activity, stress management), keeping normal levels of cholesterol and blood pressure.
In case of high-altitude pulmonary edema, the best prevention is acclimatization, following the procedures for daily ascending, and prescription medication for climbers.