Pulmonary Edema - Describe Your Experience

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What is pulmonary edema?

Edema, in general, means swelling. This typically occurs when fluid from inside blood vessels seeps outside the blood vessel into the surrounding tissues, causing swelling. This can happen either because of too much pressure in the blood vessels or not enough proteins in the bloodstream to hold on to the fluid in the plasma (the part of the blood that does not contain any blood cells).

Pulmonary edema is the term used when edema happens in the lungs. The immediate area outside of the small blood vessels in the lungs is occupied by very tiny air sacs called the alveoli. This is where oxygen from the air is picked up by the blood passing by, and carbon dioxide in the blood is passed into the alveoli to be exhaled out. Alveoli normally have a thin wall that allows for this air exchange, and fluids are usually kept out of the alveoli unless these walls lose their integrity.

Picture of the alveoli and lung
Picture of the alveoli and lung

Pulmonary edema occurs when the alveoli fill up with excess fluid seeped out of the blood vessels in the lung instead of air. This can cause problems with the exchange of gas (oxygen and carbon dioxide), resulting in breathing difficulty and poor oxygenation of blood. Sometimes, this can be referred to as "water in the lungs" when describing the condition to patients.

Pulmonary edema can be caused by many different factors. It can be related to heart failure, called cardiogenic pulmonary edema, or related to other causes, referred to as non-cardiogenic pulmonary edema.

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See what others are saying

Comment from: chachacha, 65-74 Female (Patient) Published: November 19

I had a CAT scan to check for cancer and was told that there was something wrong with my lungs. They looked foggy. I needed to see a lung specialist. The lung specialist diagnosed me as having pulmonary edema. He feels it is due to having worked doing paint and body work on vehicles during my 30s and 40s. My lungs have caused me shortness of breath and coughing ever since. I have thought that I had pneumonia quite a few times. When I visited the doctor, I was told that I didn't. There are times when I have had crushing chest pain but my angiogram came back totally clear. I am confused about why I have had a corticosteroid prescribed when I don't have asthma. I have very low blood pressure and still feel very confused about the whole thing.

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Comment from: Lynn, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: July 06

I went to hospital for scheduled surgery (colectomy). I was very dehydrated upon arrival and no one could start an IV. They (surgeon, anesthetist and nurses) tried about 10 times. Finally they got it going on top of the foot. They took me on to surgery and said they would put me under anesthesia and then get on. I came out of surgery thinking everything was ok. My oxygen saturation dropped on top of that I received Soma and some other medications I was not on. Now I was in full blown respiratory failure and no one knows what happened. I think I was overloaded with fluids, then medicines slowed my breathing, and then oxygen saturation kept dropping because of fluids in my lungs (pulmonary edema). I have never had and anesthesia problem. When I walked in and they could not start IV I was real dehydrated. I think I was overloaded with fluid loading my lungs and oxygen saturation dropping chain reaction. Now I have all these diagnoses that happened because I am just about back to normal.

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