Pulmonary Edema

  • Medical Author:
    Siamak N. Nabili, MD, MPH

    Dr. Nabili received his undergraduate degree from the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), majoring in chemistry and biochemistry. He then completed his graduate degree at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). His graduate training included a specialized fellowship in public health where his research focused on environmental health and health-care delivery and management.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Understanding COPD Slideshow Pictures

What causes pulmonary edema?

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 5/7/2015
VIEW PATIENT COMMENTS
  • Pulmonary Edema - Describe Your Experience

    Please describe your experience with pulmonary edema.

    Post View 16 Comments
  • Pulmonary Edema - Causes

    If known, what was the cause of your pulmonary edema?

    Post View 1 Comment
  • Pulmonary Edema - Symptoms

    What were your symptoms associated with pulmonary edema?

    Post View 3 Comments
  • Pulmonary Edema - Diagnosis

    What kinds of tests and exams did you have that led to a diagnosis of pulmonary edema?

    Post View 1 Comment
  • Pulmonary Edema - Treatment

    What types of treatment, therapy, or medication did you receive for pulmonary edema?

    Post View 1 Comment

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors