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.

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What are the risk factors for pulmonary edema?

The risk factors for pulmonary edema are essentially the underlying causes of the condition. There isn't any specific risk factor for pulmonary edema other than risk factors for the causative conditions.

What are the symptoms of pulmonary edema?

The most common symptom of pulmonary edema is shortness of breath or breathlessness. This may be of gradual onset if the process slowly develops, or it can have a sudden onset in the case of acute pulmonary edema.

Other common symptoms may include easy fatigue, more rapidly developing shortness of breath than normal with usual activity (dyspnea on exertion), rapid breathing (tachypnea), dizziness, or weakness.

Low blood oxygen level (hypoxia) may be detected in patients with pulmonary edema. Furthermore, upon examination of the lungs with a stethoscope, the doctor may listen for abnormal lung sounds, such as rales or crackles (discontinuous short bubbling sounds corresponding to the splashing of the fluid in the alveoli during breathing).

When should I seek medical care for pulmonary edema?

Medical attention should be sought for anyone who is diagnosed with pulmonary edema of any cause. Many causes of pulmonary edema require hospitalization, especially if they are caused acutely. In some cases of chronic (long term) pulmonary edema, for example, with congestive heart failure, routine follow-up visits with the treating doctor may be recommended.

Most cases of pulmonary edema are treated by internal medicine doctors (internists), heart specialists (cardiologists), or lung doctors (pulmonologists).

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/7/2015
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