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What is Fluid in the Lung - Pulmonary Edema? Print E-mail
Written by Jessica Smith   
Thursday, 15 October 2009
Pulmonary edema is an abnormal buildup of fluid within the tissues of the lung.
What is going on in the body?

Fluid can build up in the lungs for many reasons. This fluid makes it difficult for the lungs to give oxygen to the blood. The low oxygen in the blood and the fluid itself cause symptoms.
What are the causes and risks of the condition?

Pulmonary edema has many causes, including:
- heart problems, such as a weakened heart due to cardiomyopathy or heart attacks. An abnormal heart valve, such as occurs with chronic mitral regurgitation, may also cause this condition.
- infection in the lung, such as pneumonia
- infection in the blood, known as sepsis
- low protein levels in the body, such as from malnutrition or a kidney condition called nephrotic syndrome, in which protein is lost into the urine. Cirrhosis, or permanent hardening and scarring of the liver, can also cause low protein in the body.
- exposure to certain toxins or medications, such as carbon monoxide poisoning or a severe aspirin overdose
- severe allergic reactions, called anaphylaxis, which may occur in response to antibiotics such as penicillin and other medications
- acute mountain sickness, which occurs when a person goes from a low altitude to a high altitude quickly
- narcotic overdose
- radiation therapy or radiation sickness

What are the treatments for the condition?

A person with lung edema is usually given oxygen. If the edema is severe, the person may need to be put on a ventilator, or artificial breathing machine. Other treatments depend on the underlying cause. For example, diuretic medications, or "fluid pills," may be given to draw fluid out of the lungs. Antibiotics are given if a bacterial infection is the cause.
What are the side effects of the treatments?

Persons who require a ventilator may rarely develop an infection or damage to the lungs from the machine. All medications have side effects. Diuretics may cause allergic reactions and salt imbalances. Antibiotics also may cause allergic reactions, stomach upset, and other side effects. Other side effects depend on the medications used.
What happens after treatment for the condition?

If the underlying cause of the pulmonary edema is corrected, the person gets better and can return to normal activities. Lifelong treatment may be needed to prevent future episodes of pulmonary edema, such as in a person with a weakened heart.

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