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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.

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerE. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerRobert L. Cowie, MB, FCP(SA), MD, MSc, MFOM - Pulmonology
Last RevisedFebruary 22, 2012

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: February 22, 2012
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