Pulmonary Edema (cont.)

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What causes pulmonary edema?

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As mentioned earlier, pulmonary edema can be broadly divided into cardiogenic and non-cardiogenic causes. Some of the common causes are listed below.

Cardiogenic causes of pulmonary edema

Cardiogenic causes of pulmonary edema results from high pressure in the blood vessels of the lung due to poor heart function. Congestive heart failure due to poor heart pumping function (arising from various causes such as arrhythmias and diseases or weakness of the heart muscle), heart attacks, or abnormal heart valves can lead to accumulation of more than the usual amount of blood in the blood vessels of the lungs. This can, in turn, cause the fluid from the blood vessels to be pushed out to the alveoli as the pressure builds up.

Non-cardiogenic pulmonary edema

Non-cardiogenic pulmonary edema can be commonly caused by the following:

  • Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), a potentially serious condition caused by severe infections, trauma, lung injury, inhalation of toxins, lung infections, cocaine smoking, or radiation to the lungs. In ARDS, the integrity of the alveoli become compromised as a result of underlying inflammatory response, and this leads to leaky alveoli that can fill up with fluid from the blood vessels.
  • Kidney failure and inability to excrete fluid from the body can cause fluid build-up in the blood vessels, resulting in pulmonary edema. In people with advanced kidney disease, dialysis may be necessary to remove the excess body fluid.
  • High altitude pulmonary edema, which can happen due to rapid ascent to high altitudes of more than 10,000 feet.
  • Brain trauma, bleeding in the brain (intracranial hemorrhage), severe seizures, or brain surgery can sometimes result in fluid accumulation in the lungs, causing neurogenic pulmonary edema.
  • A rapidly expanding lung can sometimes cause re-expansion pulmonary edema. This may happen in cases when the lung collapses (pneumothorax) or a large amount of fluid around the lung (pleural effusion) is removed, resulting in rapid expansion of the lung. This can result in pulmonary edema on the affected side only (unilateral pulmonary edema).
  • Rarely, an overdose on heroin or methadone can lead to pulmonary edema.
  • Aspirin overdose or chronic high dose use of aspirin can lead to aspirin intoxication, especially in the elderly, which may cause pulmonary edema.
  • Other more rare causes of non-cardiogenic pulmonary edema may include pulmonary embolism (blood clot which has traveled to the lungs), transfusion-related acute lung injury (TRALI), some viral infections, or eclampsia in pregnant women.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/8/2014

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