Pulmonary Edema (cont.)
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Pulmonary Edema Causes
Pulmonary edema is often classified as cardiogenic or non-cardiogenic [due to a heart (cardiac) problem or due to a non-heart related issue respectively].
Cardiogenic Pulmonary Edema
It may be helpful to understand how blood flows in the body to appreciate why fluid would "back up" into the lungs. The function of the right side of the heart is to receive blood from the body and pump it to the lungs where carbon dioxide is removed, and oxygen is deposited. This freshly oxygenated blood then returns to the left side of the heart which pumps it to the tissues in the body, and the cycle starts again.
Pulmonary edema is a common complication of atherosclerotic (coronary artery) disease. As the blood vessels that supply nutrients to the heart tissue progressively narrow, the heart muscle may not receive enough oxygen and nutrients to pump efficiently and adequately. This can limit the heart's ability to pump the blood it receives from the lungs to the rest of the body. If a heart attack occurs, portions of the heart muscle die and is replaced by scar tissue, further limiting the heart's pumping capability leaving it unable to meet its work requirements.
When the heart muscle is not able to pump effectively there is a back-up of blood returning from the lungs to the heart; this backup causes an increase in pressure within the blood vessels of the lung, resulting in excess fluid leaking from the blood vessels into lung tissue.
Examples of other conditions in which heart muscle may not function adequately include (this list is not all inclusive):
Two of the most common cardiomyopathies are ischemic (due to poor blood supply to the heart muscle as described above) and hypertensive. In hypertensive cardiomyopathy, poorly treated high blood pressure results in thickening of the heart muscle to enable the heart to pump blood against that increased pressure. After a period of time, the heart may no longer be able to compensate and fails to keep up with the work load; as a result, fluid leaks out of the blood vessels into the lung tissue.
Another cause of pulmonary edema are mitral and aortic heart valve conditions. Normally, heart valves open and close at the appropriate time when the heart pumps, allowing blood to flow in the appropriate direction. In valvular insufficiency or regurgitation, blood leaks in the wrong direction. In stenosis of the heart valves, the valve becomes narrowed and doesn't allow enough blood to be pumped out of the heart chamber, causing pressure behind it. Failure of the mitral and aortic valves located in the left side of the heart can result in pulmonary edema.
Non-cardiogenic Pulmonary Edema
Non-cardiogenic pulmonary edema is less common and occurs because of damage to the lung tissue and subsequent inflammation of lung tissue. This can cause the tissue that lines the structures of the lung to swell and leak fluid into the alveoli and the surrounding lung tissue. Again, this increases the distance necessary for oxygen to travel to reach the bloodstream.
The following are some examples of causes of non-cardiogenic pulmonary edema.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/30/2014
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