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Your Ultimate Guide to Pulmonary Edema

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Your Ultimate Guide to Pulmonary Edema

Cardiology | by Dr. Rakesh Sarkar | Published on 05/07/2023


Pulmonary edema is a life-threatening medical condition affecting the lungs. This condition occurs when fluid is built-up in the lung's air sacs causing difficulty breathing and decreased oxygenation. If you experience the symptoms of pulmonary edema, it is important to consult the best pulmonologist or cardiologist in Kolkata. You can reach out to the BM Birla Heart Research Center, you will not only find the best doctors here but also appropriate diagnosis with suitable treatment for pulmonary edema. 

In this blog, we are aiming to offer you a comprehensive understanding of pulmonary edema, its causes, and symptoms including options for treatment.

What is Pulmonary Edema?

Pulmonary edema is a condition that is referred to as an abnormal build-up of fluid in the lungs. This accumulation of fluid occurs when there is a leakage in the blood vessels of the lungs and it allows the fluid to flow into the air sacs which are known as alveoli. The carbon dioxide and exchange oxygen comprises breathing issues as a result. Pulmonary edema which is developed suddenly is a clinical emergency and requires immediate medical attention. This condition can lead to death sometimes as well. Timely treatment is the only way out, however, it also depends on the cause and often includes medications and additional oxygen.

What are pulmonary edema causes?

There are various factors that contribute to the pulmonary edema development. These factors are identified as several pulmonary edema causes: 

  • Heart conditions like heart valve disorders, heart attack, congestive heart failure, etc can lead to increasing the pressure in the blood vessels, hence, leading to fluid into the lungs. 
  • Another major factor is kidney problems. When there is impairment in the kidney functions, it leads to causing fluid retention in the blood which includes the lungs. 
  • Lung injuries are also there which involve severe pneumonia, toxic substance inhalation, and acute respiratory problems that can cause leakage and inflammation in the lungs. 
  • High altitude: Fast walking to high altitude can lead to high-altitude pulmonary edema which is a hazardous condition.

What are the symptoms of pulmonary edema?

There are different signs and symptoms of pulmonary edema depending on the extent of this condition. Some of the common pulmonary symptoms involve: 

  • Fatigue, restlessness, or confusion
  • Chest pain or tightness
  • Wheezing or gasping for air
  • Shortness of breath and rapid, shallow breathing
  • A feeling of suffocation or inability to breathe properly
  • Rapid heartbeat 
  • Pink, frothy sputum or coughing up blood
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)

What are the tests used for pulmonary edema diagnosis?

If an individual suspects pulmonary edema, it is recommended to consider immediate medical attention. A healthcare expert will involve performing a thorough assessment which might include:

  • Physical examination: It involves listening to the lungs for unusual sounds, looking for fluid retention signs, and examining the levels of oxygen. 
  • Chest X-ray: This test will help the healthcare professional to see fluid accumulation and assess the lung involvement extent. 
  • Echocardiogram: It is a heart ultrasound that helps in evaluating its structure and functions. 
  • Blood tests: These tests are ordered for identifying any problems related to heart function and an underlying cause. 
  • Cardiac catheterization: It benefits in detecting any blockages in the coronary arteries. 
  • Electrocardiogram: With this test, doctors can identify heart rhythm issues or problems related to a heart attack.

What are the options for pulmonary edema treatment?

There are various options for pulmonary edema treatment, however, it depends on the underlying condition and its severity. These treatment options are:

  • Oxygen therapy: This treatment option benefits in required oxygenation and relieves breathing issues. 
  • Medications: Usually, diuretics are recommended as a treatment option for reducing the retention of fluid, whereas other medications are helpful in alleviating symptoms and addressing the underlying causes. 
  • Positive pressure ventilation: In certain cases, there might be a requirement for a ventilator to help the patient with breathing difficulties. 
  • Other medications are also recommended for the improvement of heart functions and treating underlying conditions.


Pulmonary edema is among the most serious medical conditions. So, if you are diagnosed with severe pulmonary edema, you must understand the need for prompt medical attention. Pulmonary edema is also a condition that requires immediate treatment without delay. The result of the condition is based on its causes, the severity of the case, and receiving the treatment on time. The probability increases when the patient receives immediate treatment. Hence, it is recommended to consult the pulmonologist at the BM Birla Heart Research Center for timely diagnosis and treatment.


Is pulmonary edema serious?

Yes, pulmonary edema is a serious condition and requires immediate treatment. 

Can pulmonary edema be cured?

Yes, with prompt medical attention, pulmonary edema can be treated. 

Can pulmonary edema cause sudden death?

Yes, if pulmonary edema is left untreated then it can lead to death.