Fluid Filled Lungs Causes: Symptoms And Treatment For Fluid In Lungs

Fluid filled lungs, is a condition, which physicians refer to as pulmonary edema. In certain conditions there is abnormal accumulation of fluid in the lung tissue. Lung is a vital organ of respiration. There are two lungs, left and right, situated in the bony rib cage of the chest. Each lung is made up of tiny air sacs, known as alveoli. Under normal circumstances, these sacs are filled with air that we inhale.

Exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide takes place in these tiny air sacs. The oxygen that you inhale is absorbed by tiny alveoli and mixed in the blood so that it reaches each cell in the body.

Similarly, carbon dioxide is absorbed from the pulmonary capillaries (blood vessel in the lung) and eradicated out of the body through the airways.

In pulmonary edema, the air sacs get filled up with fluid instead of air. In such a situation, normal exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide becomes difficult, giving rise to a serious condition.

What Causes Lungs To Fill Up With Fluid?

Fluid in lungs often occurs as a result of heart problems. Lung infection is another contributory factor for water in lungs.

  • Heart problems: people suffering from heart attack, cardimyopathy and congestive heart failure are at a risk of developing pulmonary edema.
    This happens because the heart is not functioning at its normal pace. Normally heart collects pure oxygenated blood from the lungs through pulmonary veins. It is then distributed throughout the body with the help of Aorta (a large blood vessel arising from the heart).
  • When cardiac muscles are damaged, the oxygenated blood is not pumped out as it should be. This leads to congestion of blood in the pulmonary vein in the lungs. Gradually, due to pressure in the pulmonary vein leads to seepage of fluid in the lung tissue called alveoli. Once the fluid replaces the air in alveoli, oxygen capacity in the lungs becomes less. Exchange of gases is hampered. There is excessive collection of carbon dioxide in the blood. Patient finds difficulty in breathing.
  • Infections such as pneumonia, lung abscess can also give rise to fluid and pus in the lungs. Bacteria and viruses responsible for causing pneumonia, attack the lining of alveoli. In its response the air sac lining reacts by releasing fluid, which may eventually become pus. Patient may experience breathing difficulty as the air sac is filled with fluid.
  • Inhaling certain toxic gasses such as carbon monoxide etc. can lead to fluid filled lung.
  • Climbing on a high altitude can pose a risk of pulmonary edema. It happens due to reduction in air pressure and less oxygen in the atmosphere.
  • Chronic kidney disease can lead to pulmonary edema. The main function of kidney is to filter impurities in the blood. It is also essential organ for salt regulation. Excess of salt (sodium) in the blood retains fluid in the body. When kidney is not functioning properly, salt retention may lead to pulmonary edema.

Fluid In Lungs Symptoms

Pulmonary edema is generally diagnosed with clinical examination by the physician. There is typical history of breathlessness produced on slightest physical exertion. On auscultation with the stethoscope (instrument to hear heart and lung sounds) there may be rapid pulsating heart with abnormal respiratory sounds. Besides this following are general pulmonary edema symptoms:

  • Breathlessness at rest or on slightest exertion.
  • In acute stage, patient becomes restless and gasps for air.
  • Patient feels easily tired.
  • Patient may find difficulty to lie down.
  • Breathless can occur at any time, but in chronic heart conditions it is more observed at night when the patient sleeps in lying down position.
  • Cough.
  • Grunting sound while breathing.
  • Excessive sweating.
  • Skin and nails may appear blue.
  • Patient may appear pale. Pale tongue and pale face.
  • Blood in cough.
  • Insomnia due to cough at night.
  • Difficulty to speak.

 Treatment For Fluid Filled Lungs

Since the condition can become serious and life threatening, the treatment is focused at eliminating accumulated fluid in the lungs. This will improve the lung function as well as the heart function. The first step is to identify the underlying cause that has triggered the condition. Treating the cause will subsequently help in reducing pulmonary edema.

If heart disease has given rise to this condition, it is necessary to provide oxygen through face mask. Certain medications such as diuretics help in eliminating the accumulated fluid through urination. Other heart related medicines may also help in improving the blood flow and relieve the pressure in the pulmonary vessel.

Natural treatment may complement the mainline treatment. It consists of salt restriction in diet. Weight reduction if the patient is obese. Adequate vitamin content should be ensured, particularly as regards the B group and vitamin C.

In acute pulmonary edema, applying blood pressure cuff to the three limbs at one time, with removal of one cuff to the fourth extremity every 15 minutes.


  1. AS said:

    I had fluid in my lung as a result of pneumonia a year ago. I still feel slight pain in my lungs when I take long breath, but I can bear it. My lungs have become smaller in size. I do not have any problem in breathing. There is no cough. Can my lungs expand to its original size?

    September 7, 2012
    • PUP said:

      When you had suffered from pneumonia last year, possibly your lung size may have become small. But after recovery from the disease it returns back to its original size. I advise you for an X-ray of chest. Since you are not having any problem thereafter you should do exercise to increase you lung capacity. Deep breathing is one of the best exercises for lung. Blowing a balloon five times in a day is also a good lung exercise. If you are a smoker than you should immediately stop smoking as it will definitely harm the lung.

      September 7, 2012
  2. Mosia said:

    I think that my father is suffering from pulmonary edema, because all all the symptoms I noticed in him point to this condition. He is currently receiving medical attention in the hospital. I want to know, what are the chances of survival if the patient is treated properly?

    August 15, 2017

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