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Illness & Conditions - Definition

Pulmonary Edema

Pulmonary Edema

Pulmonary edema is the buildup of fluid in the lungs, usually resulting from the heart's inability to pump blood through the body effectively. It can be caused by heart or kidney failure, poisoning, widespread infection, stroke, or near-drowning.

Symptoms of pulmonary edema include difficulty breathing, restlessness, shortness of breath that is worse when lying down, rapid heart rate, and a cough that sometimes produces foamy pink fluid.

Although pulmonary edema can be a life-threatening condition, it is treatable, depending on the cause. Treatment may include oxygen given through the nose or a face mask. In severe cases, relief may require a breathing tube placed into the windpipe (intubation) and use of a breathing machine (ventilator). Medicines to strengthen the heart muscle or to relieve the pressure on the heart may also be given as needed.

Last Revised: February 22, 2012

Author: Healthwise Staff

Medical Review: E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Robert L. Cowie, MB, FCP(SA), MD, MSc, MFOM - Pulmonology

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