Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"How do you get fluid in your lungs?"
I was researching online and I think I may have fluid in my lungs. What would cause fluid in my lungs and are they right that it will clear up on its own? Should I get an x-ray or something?
Fluid in the lungs is always an abnormal process, and should not be thought of as something that will clear up on its own. There are a number of conditions that can cause fluid in the lungs. Fluid can accumulate in the actual spaces in the lungs where only the air you breathe normally resides; these tiny spaces are called alveoli. This condition is called pulmonary edema. Fluid can also build-up in the pleural space surrounding the lungs; typically this space is occupied by only a few milliliters of fluid, and its job is to help expand the lungs out to the chest wall when we breathe in. However, certain processes can lead to build-up of extra fluid in this space; when this occurs, a pleural effusion results. One common cause of pulmonary edema is congestive heart failure. When pressure builds up in the heart, it may be transmitted backwards into the vessels going through the lungs. Fluid may subsequently leak out of the capillaries in the lungs, impairing the delivery of oxygen. This same process can result in a pleural effusion. Effusions can also develop as a result of infections such as pneumonia, which can lead to inflammation of the pleural membranes. If you are concerned about your lung function in any way, you should seek out the care of your primary care physician. He/she can conduct a thorough history and physical exam, and use additional tests such as a chest x-ray to help come up with a diagnosis.
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