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Pulmonary edema

  • Alternative Names

    Lung congestion; Lung water; Pulmonary congestion

    • Anxiety
    • Cough
    • Difficulty breathing
    • Excessive sweating
    • Feeling of "air hunger" or "drowning" (if this occurs suddenly, awakening you from sleep and causing you to sit up and catch your breath, it's called "paroxysmal noctural dyspnea")
    • Grunting or gurgling sounds with breathing
    • Pale skin
    • Restlessness
    • Shortness of breath
    • Shortness of breath when lying down (orthopnea) -- you may need to sleep with your head propped up or use extra pillows
    • Wheezing

    Additional symptoms that may be associated with this condition:

    • Coughing up blood or bloody froth
    • Decrease in level of alertness (consciousness)
    • Inability to speak in full sentences
    • Nasal flaring

    Signs and tests

    The health care provider will perform a physical exam and use a stethoscope to listen to the lungs and heart. The following may be detected:

    • Crackles in the lungs, called rales
    • Abnormal heart sounds
    • Increased heart rate (tachycardia)
    • Pale or blue skin color (pallor or cyanosis)
    • Rapid breathing (tachypnea)

    Possible tests include:

    • Complete blood count (CBC) to check for anemia and reduced red cell count
    • Other blood tests to measure blood chemistries and kidney function
    • Blood oxygen levels (oximetry or arterial blood gases) -- low in patients with pulmonary edema
    • Chest x-ray may reveal fluid in or around the lung space or an enlarged heart
    • Electrocardiogram (ECG) to detect abnormal heart rhythm or evidence of a heart attack
    • Ultrasound of the heart (echocardiogram) to see if there is a weak heart muscle, leaky or narrow heart valves, or fluid surrounding the heart