Symptoms and Signs of Pulmonary Edema vs. Emphysema

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 10/8/2021

Doctor's Notes on Pulmonary Edema vs. Emphysema

Pulmonary edema and emphysema are both conditions that affect the lungs. Pulmonary edema is an excess collection of watery fluid in the lungs that inhibits lung function. Emphysema is a chronic, progressive lung disease in which the lung tissue involved in the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide is damaged or destroyed. Emphysema is a type of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

A shared symptom of pulmonary edema and emphysema is shortness of breath.

Signs and symptoms of pulmonary edema also include:

Signs and symptoms of emphysema also include:

  • cough,
  • wheezing,
  • decreased tolerance for exercise, and
  • "pursed-lip breathing," in which a person exhales through pursed lips, and inhales through the nose in order to create pressure in the airways, opening them and allowing air to enter.

What Is the Treatment for Pulmonary Edema and Emphysema?

Management of pulmonary edema can involve multiple types of treatment:

  • Diuretic medications
  • Supplemental oxygen
  • Narcotics to relieve pain and anxiety
  • Medications to control blood pressure and support heart function

Treatment of emphysema may involve:

  • Bronchodilator medications
  • Supplemental oxygen
  • Inhaled steroids to decrease inflammation
  • Antibiotics for common infections
  • Lung transplant, in some cases
  • Pulmonary rehabilitation


Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.