Managing Pulmonary Edema

Pulmonary edema is a condition caused by too much fluid in the lungs. The fluid makes it hard to breathe by accumulating in the air sacs of the lungs. Causes of pulmonary edema include high blood pressure, damage to the heart muscle, and acute respiratory distress syndrome. These causes determine whether the symptoms appear quickly or develop gradually. Symptoms of pulmonary edema include difficulty breathing, restlessness, a feeling of suffocating, coughing, or chest pain.

The goals of treatment are to decrease the fluid going into the lungs, relieve shortness of breath, normalize blood pressure, and decrease the pressure on the heart. Diuretics such as furosemide (Lasix) work to decrease the fluid in the heart and lungs by increasing urination. Side effects of furosemide include dizziness. Vasodilators such as nitroprusside (Nitropress) decrease the pressure on the heart by widening the blood vessels. Side effects of nitropusside include low blood pressure.