What Causes Water Build-up in the Lungs?


Quick Answer

The most common cause of water buildup in the lungs is congestive heart failure, explains Healthline. Non-heart-related causes include acute respiratory distress syndrome, exposure to high altitudes, nervous system conditions, toxin exposure, smoke inhalation and near drowning, according to Mayo Clinic.

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Full Answer

Water in the lungs is a term used to describe pulmonary edema. Pulmonary edema can be cardiogenic or noncardiogenic in origin. Cardiogenic causes are related to the heart, while noncardiogenic causes include everything other than the heart, explains Mayo Clinic.

Cardiogenic pulmonary edema is caused by a weak or overworked left ventricle that is not able to pump out all of the blood it receives from the lungs. As blood backs up, pressure increases in the left side of the heart and lung capillaries. This pressure causes fluid to leak out of the pulmonary capillaries into the air sacs, notes Mayo Clinic.

Noncardiogenic pulmonary edema results from conditions that cause capillaries to become leaky and permeable, which makes fluid leak out into the air spaces of the lungs, according to Mayo Clinic. Acute respiratory distress syndrome is an example of a life-threatening cause of noncardiogenic pulmonary edema. This condition causes a sudden accumulation of fluid and immune cells in the lungs and can be triggered by severe trauma, sepsis, pneumonia and severe bleeding.

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