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Water in the lungs: symptoms, causes and treatment

by Alivia Nyhan
Published: Last Updated on

The accumulation of abnormal water or fluid in the lungs is a condition that is medically called pulmonary edema. It causes a difficulty in breathing and constitutes a medical emergency when it occurs suddenly, since if it is not treated urgently it can lead to serious complications and even be fatal. In general, the puddling of the lungs occurs due to heart problems, although in some occasions it can also be due to other causes, such as infections, high altitudes, damage to the lungs, taking medications or drugs, etc. For its treatment, the administration of oxygen, the identification and treatment of the underlying disease and the use of some medications are necessary. In the following FastlyHealarticle, we will explain in detail what they aresymptoms, causes and treatment of water in the lungs.

Water in the lungs: causes

The abnormal accumulation of fluid in the lungs can occur for different causes , and among these are those that we list below:

Congestive heart failure

This is the most common cause of water in the lungs. When the left side of the heart, which is in charge of pumping oxygen-rich blood to the rest of the body, does not pump the blood from the lungs efficiently, congestion can occur, that is, blood accumulates in the pulmonary vessels, thus causing the blood pressure in these vessels to increase and, consequently, that the liquid is pushed towards the alveoli and the overflow of water occurs. Congestive heart failure can be caused by the following diseases or conditions:

Other causes of water in the lungs

Although the above is the most common cause, pulmonary edema can also be caused by:

  • Renal failure .
  • Lung infections
  • Consumption of some medications and drugs.
  • Altitudes above 2,500 meters.
  • Neurological injuries, such as brain hemorrhage, head trauma, seizures, etc.
  • Lung damage caused by inhalation of toxic gas.
  • Drowning

Symptoms of water in the lungs

Depending on the cause, the symptoms of pulmonary edema can appear slowly or suddenly, in the latter case, it is called acute lung edema. Here are the most common symptoms of water in the lungs:

  • Dyspnoea or shortness of breath when lying down.
  • Paroxysmal nocturnal dyspnea: feeling short of breath when sleeping that forces you to wake up and get up to breathe deeply.
  • Intolerance to physical exertion.
  • Tiredness and fatigue, even when resting.
  • Swelling of the feet and ankles.
  • Hoarse or wheezing sounds in the chest when breathing.
  • Difficulty finishing complete sentences when speaking due to not being able to breathe normally.
  • Cough with foamy discharge that may contain blood.
  • Nervousness and / or anxiety.
  • Pale skin.
  • Excessive sweating
  • Tachycardia.

Pulmonary edema: treatment

Pulmonary edema constitutes a medical emergency that must be treated urgently in a hospital center, since the oxygenation of the blood is prevented and if it is not treated in time, it can lead to cardiorespiratory arrest. For the diagnosis, the medical specialist may request the performance of the following medical tests:

  • Chest X-ray.
  • Blood test.
  • Urine analysis.
  • Electrocardiogram.
  • Echocardiogram.
  • Complete blood count.
  • Oximetry or arterial gasometry.

The treatment of the water in the lungs will be carried out in the hospital center and has as main objectives:

  1. Reduce the venocapillary pressure in order to reduce the pulmonary congestion produced.
  2. Administer oxygen to improve lung ventilation.
  3. Treatment of the underlying disease that may have led to the pulmonary edema.

Such medical treatment may include the following:

  • Administration of oxygen to the patient, which is done through a mask or small plastic tubes, called cannulas, placed directly in the nose.
  • In cases of very severe pulmonary edema, the patient can be intubated and connected to a mechanical ventilator.
  • Quick and immediate treatment of the underlying disease that has caused the pulmonary edema.


Depending on the cause of the water in the lungs and the patient’s condition, the medical specialist may request the administration of some medications such as:

  • Preload reducing drugs: reduce the pressure caused by the accumulated fluid. Nitroglycerin and diuretic drugs are often prescribed to help remove excess fluid. In this case, it may be necessary to place a urinary catheter on the patient to avoid having to constantly get up to go to the bathroom to urinate.
  • Afterload reducing drugs: they cause a dilation of the blood vessels and reduce the pressure of the left ventricle of the heart.
  • Drugs to lower blood pressure: lower high blood pressure and make the work of the heart easier.
  • Morphine: a narcotic that can be administered to combat shortness of breath and the anxiety it causes.

How to remove fluid from the lungs naturally

It is not possible to eliminate water in the lungs naturally, pulmonary edema is a condition that, as we have already mentioned, must be treated urgently by medical specialists. However, there are a series of measures and lifestyle habits that can help prevent, as far as possible, conditions or diseases that lead to flooding of the lungs. Here are the most important ones:

  • Eat a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains and low in salt and fat.
  • Avoid being overweight.
  • Staying active and exercising regularly, 30 minutes a day is enough to keep the cardiovascular system in optimal condition.
  • Avoid smoking. In the following article, we show some good tobacco substitutes for quitting smoking .
  • Do not consume alcohol in excess.
  • Keep blood pressure, cholesterol and blood glucose levels under control.
  • Control and reduce stress levels .

This article is merely informative, at FastlyHeal .com we do not have the power to prescribe medical treatments or make any type of diagnosis. We invite you to see a doctor in the case of presenting any type of condition or discomfort.

If you want to read more articles similar to Water in the lungs: symptoms, causes and treatment , we recommend that you enter our Lung and respiratory tract category .

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