A prob­lem in­volv­ing the heart

Business World - - HEALTH+GUIDE -

SOME­TIMES, a dys­func­tional heart is to blame for one’s breath­less­ness. This is the case with pul­monary edema or oedema, a con­di­tion where there is ex­cess fluid in the lungs, par­tic­u­larly in the alve­oli, or tiny air sacs, caus­ing dif­fi­culty breath­ing.

Ac­cord­ing to the on­line health in­for­ma­tion provider We­bMD, “Nor­mally when you take a breath, your lungs fill with air. If you have pul­monary edema, they fill with fluid in­stead. When that hap­pens, oxy­gen from the air can’t get from the lungs into the blood where it’s needed.”

The usual source of the prob­lem is a heart prob­lem. Pa­tient, an in­de­pen­dent health plat­form, ex­plains that when the heart fails to pump blood to the body ef­fi­ciently, the amount of blood that stays in the veins, the tubes that take blood through the lungs to the left side of the heart, in­creases.

“As the pres­sure in th­ese blood ves­sels in­creases, fluid is pushed into the air spa­ces (alve­oli) in the lungs. This fluid re­duces nor­mal oxy­gen move­ment through the lungs, which can lead to short­ness of breath,” the site said.

But there are cases when pul­monary edema is trig­gered by other causes. Th­ese causes in­clude acute res­pi­ra­tory dis­tress syn­drome; ex­po­sure to am­mo­nia, chlo­rine and other tox­ins; acute kid­ney in­jury or chronic kid­ney dis­ease; near-drown­ing in­ci­dents; vi­ral in­fec­tions; and be­ing in high al­ti­tudes.

A sud­den at­tack of pul­monary edema is called acute pul­monary edema, which, We­bMD warns, can be life-threat­en­ing. One is ad­vised to seek im­me­di­ate med­i­cal help when one is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing any of the fol­low­ing: sud­den short­ness of breath; trou­ble breath­ing with a lot of sweat­ing; bub­bly breath­ing; cough­ing up pink, frothy spit; blue- or gray-look­ing skin; light­head­ed­ness; and dizzi­ness.

Chronic pul­monary edema is the type that de­vel­ops over time. Among the signs and symp­toms as­so­ci­ated with it are tired­ness, weight gain, more breath­ing prob­lems than usual dur­ing phys­i­cal ac­tiv­i­ties, swollen legs and feet, trou­ble breath­ing when ly­ing down and wak­ing up at night with a breath­less feel­ing.

There are sev­eral ways in which doc­tors di­ag­nose pul­monary edema. The most ba­sic steps are ex­am­in­ing a pa­tient’s med­i­cal his­tory, check­ing the blood pres­sure and lis­ten­ing for noises in the lungs or mur­murs in the heart us­ing a stetho­scope.

Sev­eral tests may need to be con­ducted: a chest X- ray to see signs of ab­nor­mal­i­ties in the heart and lungs; heart tests — like echocar­dio­gram and elec­tro­car­dio­gram — so that the doc­tor will know if there are prob­lems with the heart’s mus­cle and rhythm; and a blood test to check the lev­els of oxy­gen, car­bon diox­ide and salt, and the pres­ence of a sub­stance called na­tri­uretic pep­tide.

Left un­treated, pa­tient notes, the con­di­tion may re­sult in the in­creased pres­sure in the right side of the heart and cause the right ven­tri­cle to fail, and the fail­ure of that ven­tri­cle may lead to the fluid swelling of the legs and the tummy, as well as con­ges­tion and swelling of the liver.

We­bMD says treat­ment de­pends on the cause of the pul­monary edema. A di­uretic may be pre­scribed to lower the pres­sure in the heart and lungs, and sev­eral life­style changes may be rec­om­mended, in­clud­ing con­sump­tion of lots of veg­eta­bles and fruits, reg­u­lar ex­er­cise, quit­ting smok­ing and los­ing weight.

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