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Pulmonary Edema: Causes and Treatment

An overabundance of fluid in the lungs is a serious condition known as pulmonary edema. 

Pulmonary edema causes major breathing impediments. It can be triggered by several medical and environmental factors, though it is commonly related to heart disease. It is a severe medical condition that must be addressed immediately.

At CardioVascular Health Clinic, we provide complete heart care and services for pulmonary edema. Here, we walk you through it means, treatment options, and next steps. 

What Causes Pulmonary Edema?

Pulmonary edema is also known as lung congestion, pulmonary congestion, or cardiogenic pulmonary edema (when heart disease is a contributing factor).

Pulmonary edema is most frequently caused by heart disorders, though the condition can arise from infections, physical injury, or exposure to certain toxins or pollutants. 

Cardiogenic Pulmonary Edema

Cardiogenic pulmonary edema is a type of pulmonary edema that occurs when blood collects on the left side of the heart due to failure of the left heart ventricle to effectively transfer oxygenated blood. Cardiogenic pulmonary edema can also be caused by severely elevated blood pressure, weakened heart muscle, or heart arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat). Cardiogenic pulmonary edema is a serious risk factor for people with advanced chronic kidney disease.

Non-Cardiogenic Pulmonary Edema

Non-cardiogenic pulmonary edema occurs when internal chest pressure causes capillary ruptures, leading to blood filling the air sacs in the lungs. The causes include:

  • Major physical trauma/injury
  • Seizures
  • Electrocution
  • Inhalation of toxins
  • Certain infections

Environmental factors are also thought to contribute to pulmonary edema. High-altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE) occurs when people who have been conditioned to live in low altitudes travel to altitudes above approximately 8,000 feet. 

What Are the Symptoms of Pulmonary Edema?

Pulmonary edema can occur suddenly or gradually. The sudden onset of pulmonary edema is known as acute pulmonary edema.

Acute Pulmonary Edema Symptoms

  • Breathing restrictions
  • Drowning sensation
  • Loose cough that produces froth that might be white or pink
  • Heart palpitations
  • Anxiety
  • Wheezing
  • Blue tint to the skin
  • Mental confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Sweating

Chronic Pulmonary Edema Symptoms

  • Unexplained weight gain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Persistent cough
  • Swollen feet and legs
  • Fatigue
  • Trouble breathing when lying down
  • Dizziness 
  • Sweating

Both acute and chronic pulmonary edema are potentially fatal. If you are struggling with the above symptoms, please seek immediate medical care

Pulmonary Edema Treatment

If your medical team suspects pulmonary edema after a physical exam, they might perform a series of tests. These diagnostic tests can include the following:

  • Arterial blood gas test
  • Chest X-ray
  • Computerized tomography (CT) chest scan
  • Echocardiogram
  • Electrocardiogram (EKG)
  • Lung ultrasound

Pulmonary edema treatment will first involve introducing oxygen to the lungs through a face mask, though a breathing machine might be necessary in severe cases.

Addressing the fundamental cause of pulmonary edema is critical for successful outcomes. The recommended treatments for cardiogenic pulmonary edema might involve the following procedures:

Administration of Medications

The medications most often used to treat pulmonary edema are:

  • Diuretics: Medications that help flush sodium and excess fluid from the body and blood while lowering blood pressure.
  • Vasodilators: Medications that expand the blood vessels.

Invasive Procedures

When heart disease or heart failure is the contributing cause of pulmonary edema, the following procedures might be appropriate:

  • Coronary angioplasty: A procedure to open blocked arteries
  • Left ventricular assist device implantation: A pump that facilitates blood flow from the left chamber of the heart to the rest of the body.
  • Heart valve replacement: The replacement of a heart valve that either cannot close adequately or is too narrow.

If you are experiencing symptoms of pulmonary edema, please call 911 for immediate medical intervention. To schedule a consultation with our dedicated healthcare professionals, please contact our helpful representatives today. 

Patient Resources

We’re committed to timely, efficient, and affordable care.
Here is a collection of useful resources our new and existing patients need in one convenient location.
Please let us know if you need additional information or have any questions.


I’m about one month out and things are so much better. At my two week evaluation my symptom score had gone from a 27 to a 7, and I’m sure it’s even better now. That speaks volumes. Now that I’m post recovery, there is no incontinence, I go to the bathroom much less and there are no ED side effects like there are with other procedures. In regard to my quality of life, well, I don’t maintain my life based on my proximity to a bathroom anymore.

Blaine P., M.D.
Professional staff working in a beautiful facility with great doctors who sincerely care about their patients. Without Dr. Schmidt's skill, I would have needed heart bypass surgery instead of a stent. Follow-up has been thorough. I can't recommend them highly enough.
LeAnn H.

Dr. Jim Melton and all the staff are fantastic. He is an excellent surgeon and his team is GREAT!!!! I just had surgery at the surgery center, I have only great things to say about my experience. Without him I really don't think I would be here to write this. If you’re looking for a good cardiovascular team, they are a 5 star for sure.

Susie H.

Dr. Parsons and staff are amazing. He truly listened to me from the consult. Staff showed genuine care for my progress post procedure. I had my follow up appointment today so satisfied with results. Blake made me comfortable from the start. He is an activist for uterine fibroids treatment beyond the standard.

Tamara M.

Professional and caring staff. Dr. Smith is very knowledgeable and shows genuine concern for your personal health. I enjoyed the background music in the procedure room, it really adds to the relaxing atmosphere.

David L.

Dr. John Schrader is the most personable doctor we know. He stays on top of my dads health care and is genuinely concerned about his health. We never leave his office with questions. He answers them all. Even questions we don’t think of. Always professional but never cold or bad bedside manner. In our opinion he is THE BEST around.
Thank you Dr Schrader.

Kathy J.

I came to Dr. Warren by a self referral for mals when it took me 8yrs 50+ doctors and thousands of dollars spent on no answers. My first visit I was scared I was just going to be gaslighted just like the past however I was pleasantly shocked when Dr. Warren immediately believed me. She took the time to review many disk I had brought from past tests. She never once dismissed me and listened to ever word I had to say. She scheduled one last test to confirm the diagnosis then I was scheduled for surgery right away. Surgery was a success and I can’t thank her and her staff enough. Dr. Warren truly saved my life.

Angie W.

Dr. Garner literally saved my life 18 months ago and I've followed him to his new practice with Cardiovascular Health. He explains things so clearly, listens and is just a very nice person. His staff is great, too! I highly recommend!

D Watts

Some of the nicest staff that I have ever dealt with!! They have been so incredibly awesome to my mom!! Would definitely recommend them to anyone!! Thank you so much for being so great with her!!

Christy G.

The staff, the nurses, and Dr. Parsons were all amazing. Everything was simple and went well – very Bravo Zulu (military phrase meaning "well done"). In addition to the great staff at CardioVascular Health Clinic, the facilities were clean and well maintained. I have no complaints about anything. The whole experience was A1. I would recommend Dr. Parsons to anyone. He made a huge impact on my life.

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