Pulmonary Edema Treatment in Abingdon, VA
What Is Pulmonary Edema?
Pulmonary edema is a condition that occurs when fluid accumulates in your alveoli—the small air sacs in your lungs responsible for exchanging carbon dioxide from the blood with oxygen from the air. The condition can occur suddenly (acute pulmonary edema) or occur over time (chronic pulmonary edema), and cause symptoms such as breathing difficulties and fatigue.
Acute pulmonary edema is considered life-threatening and requires immediate medical attention to increase your blood oxygen levels. Chronic pulmonary edema can be corrected with a variety of treatment methods, including medication, lifestyle changes, and treating the underlying cause driving your breathing difficulties.
To schedule a consultation with a healthcare practitioner in Abingdon who specializes in pulmonary edema treatment, call (423) 482-8711 or contact AWAREmed Health and Wellness Resource Center online.
Pulmonary Edema Causes
There are two main types of pulmonary edema: cardiogenic pulmonary edema and non-cardiogenic pulmonary edema.
Cardiogenic Pulmonary Edema
The most common cause of pulmonary edema is due to poor cardiovascular function, when increased pressure pushes fluid from the capillaries into your alveoli. This increased pressure can occur due to a number of conditions that affect the heart, particularly coronary artery disease.
Additional cardiogenic pulmonary edema causes include:
- Blood clots
- Heart attacks
- Abnormal heart valves
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Renal artery stenosis (narrowed kidney arteries)
- Fluid buildup due to kidney disease
Non-Cardiogenic Pulmonary Edema
When pulmonary edema is not due to heart problems, it is considered non-cardiogenic pulmonary edema. In these instances, fluid may leak from the capillaries because the capillary walls have become more permeable.
Conditions that can cause non-cardiogenic pulmonary edema include:
- Viral infections
- Pulmonary embolism
- Lung injury or near drowning
- Reactions to illegal drugs or smoke inhalation
- Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS)
Additionally, ascending to altitudes above 8,000 feet can cause high-altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE) due to the increased pressure. Neurogenic pulmonary edema can result from head injuries, seizures, subarachnoid hemorrhage or brain surgery.
Symptoms of Pulmonary Edema
Signs of pulmonary edema may occur suddenly or develop slowly over time.
The most common symptom of pulmonary edema is dyspnea, a shortness of breath or difficulty breathing that sometimes worsens when laying down. Hypoxia, or low blood oxygen levels, has also been detected in patients with pulmonary edema.
Symptoms of acute pulmonary edema can include:
- Grey or blue skin
- Irregular heartbeat
- Anxiety or restlessness
- Lightheadedness or dizziness
- Chest pain, if the edema is caused by heart disease
Chronic pulmonary edema symptoms can include:
- Rapid weight gain
- Swollen legs or feet
- Waking up at night, breathless
Symptoms of HAPE can include:
- Chest discomfort
- Fast or irregular heartbeat
- Shortness of breath that gets worse with time
- Cough, sometimes with red, frothy spit
- Difficulty walking uphill, which can then lead to difficulty walking on flat surfaces
Pulmonary Edema Diagnosis
To diagnose pulmonary edema, your healthcare provider will ask you about your symptoms and medical history. A blood sample or pulse oximetry sensor may be utilized to measure your oxygen and carbon dioxide levels. Pulmonary crackles may be detected within the lungs by listening with a stethoscope.
There are many tests that can help to arrive at a pulmonary edema diagnosis which analyze the heart and lungs. Some of these tests include:
- Chest X-ray
- Electrocardiogram (EKG)
- Transesophageal echocardiography (TEE)
- Pulmonary artery catheterization
- Cardiac catheterization
Treating Pulmonary Edemas
There are many ways to treat pulmonary edema, such by supplying oxygen, prescribing medications, and through other alternative treatments or lifestyle changes. Your course of treatment will be dependent upon the severity of your symptoms. If your pulmonary edema is caused by an underlying issue, such as an infection or heart condition, your healthcare provider will treat that condition.
Oxygen and Medications
The first step to treating pulmonary edema is supplying oxygen through a face mask or an oxygen tube through the nose. To treat HAPE, providing oxygen and returning to low altitudes can relieve symptoms. Sometimes, a mechanical ventilator may be necessary to help your breathing. Your oxygen levels will then be closely monitored.
Pulmonary edema medications can include:
- Blood pressure medications to treat low or high blood pressure
- Preload reducers, such as nitroglycerin and diuretics, to decrease the pressure caused by fluid entering your heart and lungs
- Afterload reducers, such as nitroprusside, to dilate the blood vessels and relieve pressure from the left ventricle
- Morphine to relieve shortness of breath and anxiety
- Acetazolamide or nifedipine medication may be taken by some climbers to treat or prevent symptoms of HAPE
Alternative Treatments & Lifestyle Changes
In the event that your pulmonary edema symptoms are mild, your healthcare provider may recommend alternative or at-home treatments, as well as lifestyle changes.
Alternating between hot and cold hand and foot baths every minute, three times a day, may help circulation. Applying castor oil on the chest with a soft cloth and plastic wrap for 30-60 minutes, four to six times per day, may be able to treat pulmonary edema. Other alternative treatments include massages, homeopathy , and acupuncture.
Various nutritional supplements which may help with your pulmonary edema symptoms include:
- Coenzyme Q10
- Vitamin E, C, and B1
Various herbs can also prove beneficial in some pulmonary edema sufferers, including hawthorn, rosemary, horse chestnut, forskolin, and garlic. Talk with your healthcare provider first before taking any herbs, as certain herbs can have adverse effects when taken with medications like diuretics, or if you have diseases such a liver or kidney diseases.
Lifestyle changes that help treat or prevent pulmonary edema include:
- Regular exercise
- Smoking cessation
- Reducing stress when possible
- Losing weight if overweight
- Monitoring your cholesterol levels
- Eating fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
- Reducing sodium intake
- Once reaching 8,200 feet, ascend no more than 1,200 feet per day, resting every other day
- Taking medications to treat the underlying causes of pulmonary edema, such as blood pressure medication or glucose for diabetes.
Is Pulmonary Edema Fatal?
Acute pulmonary edema is a medical emergency; if you are experiencing symptoms of acute pulmonary edema, contact emergency medical personnel immediately. Additionally, if chronic pulmonary edema is not treated, it could lead to the following complications:
- The right ventricle of the heart failing
- Congestion and swelling of the liver
- Swelling in the lower extremities and abdomen
- Pleural effusion, the swelling of the membranes surrounding your lungs
Whether acute or chronic, pulmonary edema threatens your overall wellness. To schedule an appointment with a healthcare practitioner in Abingdon who is equipped to handle your medical needs, call (423) 482-8711 or contact AWAREmed Health and Wellness Resource Center online.
AWAREmed Health and Wellness Resource Center
Address1604 Lamons Lane
Johnson City, TN 37604
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