Causes of pulmonary effusion include pneumonia, cirrhosis of the liver, cancer, congestive heart failure and pulmonary embolism, according to WebMD. Other causes are end-stage kidney failure, autoimmune diseases such as lupus, and nephrotic syndrome. Nephrotic syndrome is not a disease in itself but a group of symptoms that indicate something is wrong with the kidneys.
These conditions cause excess fluid in the lungs because organs such as the kidneys can no longer remove and balance fluids the way they should or because a disease causes inflammation in the body, states WebMD. Sometimes pleural effusion causes no symptoms. However, if it is a large effusion or is caused by inflammation, the person may have chest pain when he takes deep breaths, or may experience shortness of breath, cough and fever. These symptoms can run in concert with other symptoms of the underlying disease.
A doctor can detect a pleural effusion by listening to the person's chest through a stethoscope and tapping the chest, explains WebMD, but a more accurate way to discover the condition is through a chest X-ray. The film shows the effusion as a white area at the bottom of the lung. Other X-rays help doctors discover how or if the fluid moves around the person's chest.