Possible Causes of Noncardiac Pulmonary Edema

Page content

The causes of noncardiac pulmonary edema differ from those causing the cardiac form of this disease. Pulmonary edema of a noncardiac nature occurs when fluid leaks from the lung air sac capillaries due to the capillaries becoming leaky or more permeable. This can happen even if the buildup of back pressure coming from the heart is not present. In short, noncardiac is the term used when pulmonary edema is not caused by the heart.

Lung Infections

Lung infections can result from bacteria, viruses, or fungi. Common lung infections range from the common cold to pneumonia. If a lung infection is present, patients may experience:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Blood in sputum when coughing
  • Wheezing or stridor
  • Somnolence
  • Cough with or without sputum
  • Discomfort and chest pain when breathing
  • Gradual loss of appetite eventually resulting in weight loss
  • Cyanosis

Toxin Exposure

Being exposed to certain toxins may cause this condition. This includes toxins that are inhaled, such as chlorine or ammonia. This also includes the toxins that circulate throughout the human body. For example, when a person vomits, there is a chance they will inhale some of their stomach contents. Smoke inhalation is another cause due to fire-related smoke containing chemicals capable of damaging the membrane between the capillaries and air sacs. Certain drugs may also have a negative affect, such as aspirin, cocaine, and chemotherapy.

Kidney Disease

Kidney disease is a broad term referring to any disorder or disease that affects kidney function. Some common kidney diseases include kidney failure (both acute and chronic), kidney infection, kidney stones, kidney injury, kidney damage, chronic nephritis, and renal disorders. When the kidneys are not functioning properly, it results in them not being able to properly filter toxins out of the body which can result in a variety of symptoms and complications. Common symptoms that may indicate a kidney disease include:

  • Not producing urine or urine output reduction
  • Vomiting
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Decreased mental sharpness
  • Swelling of feet and ankles
  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sleep problems
  • Muscle cramps and twitches
  • Persistent itching

Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome

Also referred to as ARDS, this serious medical condition occurs when the lungs suddenly fill with inflammatory white blood cells and fluid. This condition can be caused by a number of things, such as severe injuries, pneumonia, systemic infection, and shock. Symptoms may include low blood pressure, rapid breathing, organ failure, labored breathing, and shortness of breath.

High Altitudes

Those who live in high altitudes or mountain climbers are at risk for developing what is referred to as high-altitude pulmonary edema. This condition most often occurs at elevations higher than 8,000 feet. The cause isn’t completely understood, but it seems to occur when pulmonary capillaries constrict as a result of increased pressure. This condition can be fatal without the appropriate care.


MayoClinic.com. (2010). Pulmonary Edema Causes. Retrieved on September 12, 2010 from MayoClinic.com: https://www.mayoclinic.com/health/pulmonary-edema/DS00412/DSECTION=causes

Healthcare Professionals Homepage. (2007). Pulmonary Edema: A Clinical Overview. Retrieved on September 12, 2010 from Healthcare Professionals Homepage: https://www.hcplive.com/publications/Resident-and-Staff/2007/2007-02/2007-02_01