Ways to Manage Pulmonary Edema

Characterized by the accumulation of fluid in the lungs, pulmonary edema occurs in nearly one to two percent of the general population. It may become life-threatening, thus it requires prompt treatment and care. Fortunately, it is a reversible condition if treated immediately and properly; the main treatment being the removal of fluid from the lungs and immediate oxygenation.

Discussing with the best pulmonologist in Islamabad made us understand pulmonary edema better, its causes, symptoms, and the ways we can manage it better. Let me guide you through what we learned:

What causes pulmonary edema?

Fluid buildup in the lungs is caused primarily due to two factors

  • Cardiogenic – As the name indicates, this shows a problem with your heart. The heart is the main organ circulating blood in all parts of the body; when it is unable to pump properly causes fluid to accumulate along with the building up of a lot of pressure. The left side of the heart weakens leading to congestive heart failure and consequently pulmonary edema. This may occur due to a heart attack, weak heart muscles, hypertension, arrhythmia, etc.
  • Non-cardiogenic – Blood vessels in the lungs may become inflamed due to various other reasons. These may include the use of some medications, trauma, sepsis, bleeding in the brain, kidney failure, or even lung damage by severe infection.


Acute or short-term may present itself as:

  • Dyspnea (shortness of breath)
  • Wheezing
  • Coughing up blood
  • Chest tightness/pain or a feeling of suffocation
  • Pale of bluish skin
  • Sweating in feet and ankles

Symptoms of chronic pulmonary edema include:

  • Being tired all the time
  • Shortness of breath even when lying flat
  • Swelling in legs
  • Edema or swelling in the lower part of the body

Diagnostic tests

There are a number of diagnostic tests which can be done by your doctor:

  • Complete blood count
  • Chest x-ray (to see fluid)
  • Pulse oximetry (for oxygen saturation)
  • Electrocardiogram (for heart rhythm problems and heart attack)
  • Echocardiogram

How pulmonary edema is treat and manag?

Managing pulmonary edema is a critical medical situation that requires immediate attention from healthcare professionals. Pulmonary edema is a condition characterized by the accumulation of fluid in the lungs, which can be caused by various underlying conditions, including heart failure, kidney disease, or acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). Here are the steps typically taken to manage pulmonary edema: This is a serious medical condition, the treatment of which depends upon the severity of the condition and comprises the following:

Call for Emergency Medical Assistance:

If you or someone you are with is experiencing symptoms of pulmonary edema, such as severe shortness of breath, rapid breathing, or frothy, pink-tinged sputum, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room immediately.


As the lungs are unable to function properly, the first line of treatment would be to ensure that the body gets the correct saturation of oxygen consistently. Oxygen may be delivered through prongs via the nose, also called a nasal cannula. Supplemental oxygen is sometimes not enough and mechanical ventilation may be required. Symptoms may visibly subside when the levels of oxygen in the blood increase.

Monitor Vital Signs:

Healthcare providers will continuously monitor vital signs such as blood pressure, heart rate, and oxygen saturation. These parameters help in assessing the patient’s condition and guiding treatment.

Position the Patient:

Patients with pulmonary edema are often place in a position that helps improve breathing. This may involve sitting the patient upright (orthopnea) or using other positions that ease breathing.


The most commonly used medications for the removal of excess water from the body are the “water pills” or diuretics. Fluid buildup is revers by the use of diuretics at the correct recommended dose by the doctor. The most frequently used diuretics are furosemide, acetazolamide, etc.

Body positioning

Body positioning is important to relieve the pressure on the chest and lungs. Sitting upright or leaning slightly forward can help to achieve this and manage pulmonary edema better.

Limit salt intake

Salt helps the body retain fluid. The more salt intake a person has, the more likely he is to accumulate water inside the body. Too much salt may also be a trigger for congestive heart failure. Patients suffering from pulmonary edema need to monitor their salt intake very closely.

Monitor vital signs regularly

To manage pulmonary edema, it is necessary to have vigilant control over other diseases and health conditions that you may be suffering from. Monitoring blood pressure, heart rate, sugar, and oxygen saturation regularly and religiously is important to track any progress made and any unwanted shift toward detrimental conditions.

Lifestyle modifications

Choosing a healthy diet with plenty of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains along with the correct supplementation as prescribed by your healthcare practitioner is necessary to bring about a positive change in your situation. Intake of fats, sugars, and salt needs to be limit and monitor closely.

Other lifestyle changes include:

  • Cessation of smoking
  • Exercise regularly
  • Avoid sitting for longer periods of time
  • Lose weight and monitor cholesterol levels

Continuous Monitoring:

Patients with pulmonary edema often require close monitoring and observation, which can include blood tests, chest X-rays, and echocardiograms to assess heart function and fluid levels in the lungs.

Lifestyle Modifications:

After treatment, patients with chronic conditions like heart failure may need to make lifestyle changes, such as dietary modifications and taking prescribed medications as directed.

Follow-Up Care:

Regular follow-up appointments with healthcare providers are crucial to manage and monitor the underlying condition and prevent further episodes of pulmonary edema.


Suffering from pulmonary edema is not an easy task and can be frustrating while simultaneously battling the constant fatigue. What can be done is to have a positive approach to it all, keep track of your progress and setbacks, and follow up regularly with your healthcare provider.

It’s important to emphasize that pulmonary edema is a medical emergency, and self-treatment is not appropriate. Seek immediate medical attention for proper evaluation and treatment by trained healthcare professionals. The management plan will depend on the specific circumstances and underlying causes of the condition.

Remember, pulmonary edema is a life-threatening condition, and professional medical intervention is essential. Do not attempt to manage it on your own. Timely and appropriate treatment is crucial for the best possible outcome.

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