Pulmonary oedema, known as fluid in the lungs in layman's terms, refers to an accumulation of fluid in the lungs. The most common causes of pulmonary oedema are cardiac diseases such as cardiac insufficiency or stays at high altitude (high-altitude pulmonary oedema).
Pulmonary oedema occurs if fluid collects in the lungs. Cardiac insufficiency in the left cardiac chamber (left-sided cardiac insufficiency) is usually responsible for this and causes an accumulation of blood in the lungs. This leads fluid to discharge from the blood vessels to the into the pulmonary alveoli and subsequently the development of pulmonary oedema. Besides cardiac insufficiency, pulmonary infections, gases such as flue gas or chlorine gas, or allergic reactions can cause pulmonary oedema. High-altitude pulmonary oedema, during which there is a discharge of fluid from the blood vessels into the lungs due to the low oxygen pressure at a high altitude, also exists. It occurs primarily during physical exertion at a high altitude.
Typical symptoms of pulmonary oedema are shortness of breath and severe irritation in the throat. Depending on the severity of the oedema, this can be accompanied by blue colouring to the lips (cyanosis), an accelerated heartbeat and foamy sputum. Nightly irritation in the throat which improves when the upper body is elevated can be an initial sign of cardiac insufficiency with the onset of pulmonary oedema.
Different examinations are carried out to diagnose pulmonary oedema. When you listen to the lungs, you can hear the typical bubbling noises. The accumulation of fluid in the lungs can be seen in the x-ray.
Intensive medical therapy is required to treat acute pulmonary oedema. The upper body must be elevated and the legs lowered. It is also often necessary to administer oxygen via a nasal tube or a facial mask. In severe cases, artificial respiration may sometimes be required. Medication is used to flush out the fluid from the lungs and to strengthen the cardiac function.
If someone is suffering from high altitude pulmonary oedema, it is crucial that they are quickly brought down from the high altitude.