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What causes water to fill around the lungs?

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Quick Answer

The condition that causes fluid around the lungs, pulmonary edema, often results from heart problems such as cardiomyopathy. Other causes of pulmonary edema include pneumonia, and living and exercising at high elevations, Mayo Clinic states.

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The most common causes of fluid buildup around the lungs are conditions of the heart. The heart pumps blood through the pulmonary arteries to the lungs, and if the process encounters problems, the lungs may fill with more fluid than they can handle. Heart-related pulmonary edemas most often involve the failure of the left ventricle, Mayo Clinic says. When the left ventricle fails, increased pressure in the heart causes fluid to push through in the air sacs of the lungs.

Pulmonary edemas not related to the heart can happen in high-altitude climbing. The air at 8,000 feet above sea level may increase pressure on the pulmonary capillaries, claims Mayo Clinic. People can avoid this condition by properly acclimating to high altitudes. Other conditions that can cause pulmonary edema include viral infections, injuries to the lungs and smoke inhalation.

Doctors may prescribe certain medications to treat pulmonary edema, such as preload reducing medicines that decrease the pressure near the heart and lungs. Morphine and blood pressure medicines may also effectively treat pulmonary edema, Mayo Clinic says.

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