Fluid in the Lungs: Major Causes and Best Treatments

The lungs are located within the chest, just under the rib cage. They are critical for breathing in oxygen and expelling carbon dioxide. Compared to other organs in the chest, the lungs are considered relatively large. They are located on either side of the heart in two cavities. Although at first glance the two cavities look identical, the right cavity is made up of three lobes and the left cavity is made up of two lobes. Each of the lobes is composed of clusters of alveoli or air sacs, which is where the gases are exchanged and then oxygen is taken up by the bloodstream for transport throughout the body.

The process of breathing is continuous provided if the alveoli are intact and functioning normally. However, the accumulation of fluid in the lungs, also called pulmonary edema, compromises the lung's ability to uptake oxygen and to expel carbon dioxide. Pulmonary edema is a medical condition that is characterized by the abnormal accumulation of fluid in the lungs, inflammation of the lungs, and difficulty breathing. This article will explore the symptoms, causes and treatment strategies for pulmonary edema.  

Symptoms of Fluid in Lungs

Fluid in the lungs can cause a host of symptoms. These symptoms vary based on whether the fluid accumulation occurred suddenly (acute) or the fluid accumulation was an ongoing phenomenon (chronic). The symptoms of acute and chronic fluid in the lungs are listed below:

Symptoms of Acute Fluid in the Lungs

It is important to remember to seek immediate medical attention by calling 911 if you experience any of the symptoms that are characteristic of acute fluid in the lungs.

Symptoms of Chronic Fluid in Lungs

Causes of Fluid in the Lungs

Cardiogenic (Heart-related) Causes

Fluid in the lungs that occurs as a result of heart defects is known as cardiac pulmonary edema or congestive heart failure. The left ventricle of the heart receives oxygenated blood from the lungs, which it then pumps out to the rest of the body. When the left ventricle is damaged by disease or overworked, it is unable to completely pump out the blood that it received from the lungs, thus increasing the pressure inside the left atrium, the veins, and finally in the capillaries of the lungs. Eventually the blood is forced through the capillary walls into the alveoli. Another cause of congestive heart failure include left heart failure, due to pulmonary hypertension or chronic lung disease, which increases the pressure within the pulmonary artery to levels that cannot be controlled by the right ventricle.

Some medical conditions that can lead to left ventricle failure include:

Non-Cardiogenic Causes

Conditions that cause fluid in lungs that are not related to the heart are known as non-cardiac pulmonary edema. In these conditions, the alveoli or capillaries become leaky allowing fluid to accumulate in the lungs. Non-cardiac pulmonary edema is caused by a number of factors, including:

Treatments for Fluid in the Lungs

The initial intervention for fluid in the lungs is the administration of oxygen, either via a mask covering the nose and mouth or cannula (a device with flexible tubing with two pieces that are inserted into the nostrils). In some extreme cases, it needs to use a ventilator to supplement the breathing process.

In addition to the oxygen, it may also be necessary to administer one or more of the medications listed below:

Medical Treatments

Home Remedies

If you have non-cardiac pulmonary edema, you may be able to prevent additional damage to your lungs by avoiding the factors that may have triggered your condition, including drugs, allergens or high altitudes. Here are few home remedies that you can try to prevent or treat some of the factors that eventually lead to fluid in lungs:

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