Signs and Symptoms of Pulmonary Edema

  • Severe breathing difficulty, including wheezing; rapid, shallow breathing; and a feeling of suffocation
  • Cough, dry at first, but later producing pink, frothy sputum
  • Fatigue
  • Profuse perspiration
  • Blue tinge to the nails, lips, or skin
  • Palpitations
  • Anxiety and restlessness
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Sudden respiratory distress after sleep
  • Wheezing or gurgling sounds when breathing

Pulmonary Edema Prevention

  • To prevent heart disease, don’t smoke; eat a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet; exercise regularly; and lose weight if you are overweight.
  • Have your blood pressure and cholesterol checked.
  • Allow a few days to adjust to a higher altitude before engaging in strenuous physical activity. If you have an existing heart condition, your doctor may alter your medication prior to a high-altitude trip.

Diagnosis of Pulmonary Edema

  • Patient history and examination of the chest is necessary.
  • Blood samples are taken to measure oxygen and carbon dioxide content.
  • A chest x-ray may be taken.
  • Arterial blood gas (ABG) analysis may be performed to identify metabolic acidosis.
  • An electrocardiogram (ECG) may be performed to identify a heart rhythm disturbance or evidence of a heart attack.
  • Pulmonary artery catheterization may be performed to identify left ventricular failure.
  • An ultrasound test (echocardiogram) may be performed to evaluate the pumping function and thickness of the heart, and to evaluate the mitral and aortic valves.
  • A stress test or angiogram (injection of a contrasting dye into the blood vessels to make them clearly visible on x-rays) may be performed to check for the presence of coronary artery disease or narrowed arteries.


Johns Hopkins Symptoms and Remedies: The Complete Home Medical Reference

Simeon Margolis, M.D., Ph.D., Medical Editor

Prepared by the Editors of The Johns Hopkins Medical Letter: Health After 50

Updated by Remedy Health Media

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at

Published: 29 Aug 2011

Last Modified: 01 Jul 2013