SymptomsBy Mayo Clinic staff
Depending on the cause, pulmonary edema symptoms may appear suddenly or develop slowly.
Sudden (acute) pulmonary edema symptoms
- Extreme shortness of breath or difficulty breathing (dyspnea) that worsens when lying down
- A feeling of suffocating or drowning
- Wheezing or gasping for breath
- Anxiety, restlessness or a sense of apprehension
- A cough that produces frothy sputum that may be tinged with blood
- Excessive sweating
- Pale skin
- Chest pain, if pulmonary edema is caused by heart disease
- A rapid, irregular heartbeat (palpitations)
If you develop any of these signs or symptoms, call 911 or emergency medical assistance right away. Pulmonary edema can be fatal if not treated.
Long-term (chronic) pulmonary edema symptoms
- Having more shortness of breath than normal when you're physically active.
- Difficulty breathing with exertion, often when you're lying flat as opposed to sitting up.
- Awakening at night with a breathless feeling that may be relieved by sitting up.
- Rapid weight gain when pulmonary edema develops as a result of congestive heart failure, a condition in which your heart pumps too little blood to meet your body's needs. The weight gain is from buildup of fluid in your body, especially in your legs.
- Swelling in your legs and ankles.
- Loss of appetite.
High-altitude pulmonary edema symptoms
- Fluid retention
- Shortness of breath
When to see a doctor
Pulmonary edema that comes on suddenly (acute) is life-threatening. Get emergency assistance if you have any of the following acute signs and symptoms:
- Trouble breathing or a feeling of suffocating (dyspnea)
- A bubbly, wheezing or gasping sound when you breathe
- Pink, frothy sputum when you cough
- Breathing difficulty along with profuse sweating
- A blue or gray tone to your skin
- A severe drop in blood pressure resulting in lightheadedness, dizziness, weakness or sweating
- A sudden worsening of any of the symptoms associated with chronic pulmonary edema or high-altitude pulmonary edema
Don't attempt to drive yourself to the hospital. Instead, call 911 or emergency medical care and wait for help.
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