Risk of Pulmonary Edema
by len king on Apr 16, 2023
Heart failure and other heart conditions that cause increased pressure in the heart increase the risk of pulmonary edema. Risk factors for heart failure include
Arrhythmias (heart rhythm disorders)
Congenital heart disease
Coronary artery disease
Heart valve disease
Some neurological disorders and lung damage due to near drowning, drug use, smoke inhalation, viral infections and blood clots also increase the risk.
People are more likely to develop high altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE) when traveling to higher altitudes than 2,400 meters (about 8,000 feet). It usually affects people who have not taken a few days to a week or more to slowly acclimate to high altitude.
Children with pre-existing pulmonary hypertension and structural heart defects may be more likely to develop HAPE.
Complications arising from pulmonary edema depend on its etiology.
Generally, as long as pulmonary edema persists, pulmonary artery pressure increases (pulmonary hypertension). Eventually, the heart weakens and begins to fail, and the pressure in the heart and lungs rises.
Complications of pulmonary edema may include
Swelling in the legs, feet and abdomen
Accumulation of fluid in the membranes that enclose the lungs (pleural effusion)
Bruising and enlargement of the liver
Acute pulmonary edema requires immediate treatment to prevent the patient from dying.
It may be possible to prevent the development of pulmonary edema by managing existing heart or lung disease and adopting a healthy lifestyle.
For example, effective control of cholesterol and blood pressure may help reduce the risk of heart disease. To maintain a healthy heart, follow these recommendations:
Develop a healthy diet that includes fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fat-free or low-fat dairy products, and a variety of proteins.
Limit your salt and alcohol intake.
Manage your weight.
Prevention of High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE)
To prevent HAPE, travel to high altitudes with a gradual increase in altitude. Although recommendations vary, most experts recommend that after reaching an altitude of about 2500 meters (8200 feet), daily elevation gain should not exceed about 300 to 360 meters (1000 to 1200 feet).
Some climbers take prescription medications such as acetazolamide or nifedipine (Procardia) to help prevent the symptoms of HAPE. To prevent HAPE, start taking your medication at least one day prior to your climb. Consult with medical personnel about how long to take medication after reaching a high-altitude destination.
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