Pulmonary edema is a pathology that involves the accumulation of fluid in the lungs. This accumulation makes breathing difficult and, therefore, puts lives at risk. In most cases, pulmonary edema is caused by heart problems. However, it can also be caused by trauma, pneumonia (infection in the lungs) or even medication. When edema suddenly appears, it is a medical emergency and can be fatal. On other occasions, it occurs progressively. Even so, it remains an important situation that must be resolved. In this article, we explain the causes and symptoms of pulmonary edema.
What Is Pulmonary Edema?
The alveoli are the air pockets that form the lungs. They are responsible for absorbing oxygen and eliminating carbon dioxide during breathing. When filled with liquid instead of air, this gas exchange cannot be performed correctly.
The accumulation of fluid is called pulmonary edema. It is usually caused by causes related to the heart. In these circumstances, it is called cardiogenic pulmonary edema. It occurs mainly when the left ventricle of the heart weakens. On the other hand, pulmonary edema may not be related to the heart (non-cardiogenic edema). It happens, for example, when a person climbs to high altitude areas.
Causes of Pulmonary Edema?
Cardiogenic Pulmonary Edema
As we have already mentioned, cardiogenic pulmonary edema occurs due to heart disease. The problems that cause pulmonary edema more frequently are:
- Alterations of the coronary arteries. They are those that are responsible for the circulation of the heart. They usually become clogged due to accumulations of fat (atheroma plaques), which causes the heart to weaken. Blood tends to accumulate in the lungs, and this causes fluid to pass into the alveoli.
- Injuries of the heart muscle. It is called cardiomyopathy. The same happens as in the previous case, as the heart does not beat hard enough, the liquid returns to the lungs.
- Heart valve problems.
Non-Cardiogenic Pulmonary Edema
In this case, the main causes are:
- High altitudes. When a person climbs to high altitude areas, an increase in pressure may occur due to vasoconstriction of the pulmonary capillaries. This causes the liquid to pass into the alveoli.
- Acute respiratory distress syndrome. It is a disorder in which the lungs fill with fluid and white blood cells. It may be due to trauma or infections.
- For a pulmonary embolism. It occurs when a clot occupies a pulmonary blood vessel and prevents blood circulation properly.
- Viral infections.
- Inhalation of smoke or drowning.
What Are The Symptoms of Pulmonary Edema?
The pulmonary edema symptoms will depend on the cause and how quickly the edema is established. When it occurs acutely, the main symptoms are:
- Difficulty breathing that worsens when lying down.
- Choking sensation
- Breathing noises ( wheezing).
- Cough that may have blood spots.
- Tachycardia, the heart beats at an accelerated rate.
- The skin may be cold and wet and the lips bluish.
When edema appears progressively, the symptoms are slightly different:
- There is also difficulty breathing, both with effort and at bedtime.
- The legs may swell.
- Increase the feeling of fatigue.
- Cough that appears at bedtime and is relieved by sitting.
- Weight gain.
How Can We Prevent Pulmonary Edema?
To try to prevent Pulmonary edema, the main thing is to try to avoid a heart problem. It is necessary to control blood pressure since hypertension is one of the main risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
Moderating daily exercise and maintaining a proper diet are essential measures. They help control blood pressure levels, and also blood cholesterol. This is important because cholesterol is related to coronary artery pathologies.
On the other hand, you have to avoid smoking and drinking alcohol. In addition, it is recommended to maintain our weight in a healthy way. And, of course, you have to try to control stress.
If you feel short of breath, fatigue or any of the symptoms of Pulmonary edema as mentioned, do not hesitate to see a doctor urgently. Pulmonary edema is a delicate situation that puts your health at risk.