Lung Congestion


What are Chest Congestion and its Symptoms?

Download PDF
Bookmark added to your notes.
View Notes

Our respiratory system is unique in terms of functioning and the exchange of gases. The lungs are the second biggest organs in terms of surface area. When spread, it covers up to 75 square meters. It covers the size of half the size of a tennis court. When the lungs are congested for various reasons, our chest feels heavy and we cannot breathe properly. In this section, we will study lung congestion, its symptoms, and the causes behind the congestion. It is a medical condition that should be studied methodically.

What is Chest Congestion?

The thoracic cavity of human physiology is almost occupied by a pair of lungs. This pair of organs remains inside the rib cage protected properly. It is like an air sac that can expand and contract to inhale and exhale air. Its primary function is to exchange gases. It absorbs oxygen from the inhaled air by means of diffusion. The increased surface area due to the presence of grapes-like structure or alveoli ensures proper absorption of oxygen in the bloodstream. On the other hand, carbon dioxide passes from the bloodstream to the air inside the lungs. It is then exhaled or excreted. When the lungs are filled with internal secretion or blood, it can cause congestion. It can also happen due to pathogenic invasions causing lung diseases.

When the lungs are filled with unwanted fluid due to particular anatomical reasons or ailments, it causes chest congestion. The patient will not be able to breathe properly and will feel breathless as the alveoli pouches are filled with fluid or blood. The patient will struggle to breathe to get more oxygen for the maintenance of bodily functions. In chronic cases, the affected person might have to seek artificial breathing assistance from a healthcare centre. Lung congestion is a symptom that indicates the presence of a grave ailment. This ailment needs to be diagnosed and treated before the situation aggravates. It is also called pulmonary edema. Let us check the different types of pulmonary edema.

Types of Pulmonary Edema

The process of accumulation of fluid inside the lungs causing congestion and irregular breathing is called pulmonary edema. When the lungs get filled with more fluid, it causes immense breathing problems as the patient struggles for air. Here are the different types of pulmonary edema as per their origin.

1. Cardiogenic Pulmonary Edema

As per the pulmonary oedema meaning, in this case, it happens due to a problem in the heart. The left ventricular chamber when pumps blood ineffectively, can cause the accumulation of blood due to building pressure. The arteries are quite narrow in lumen size. Hence, this building pressure can damage the valves causing backflow of blood to the lungs.

2. Noncardiogenic Pulmonary Edema

If we define congestion, in this case, it can happen due to multiple reasons. The common reasons are:

  • Higher pressure built in the chest causingĀ  airway blockage

  • Blood clots

  • Acute respiratory distress syndrome, also known as ARDS.

  • Invasive procedures in the brain

  • Chemical contact with chlorine, toxins, ammonia, etc.

  • Injury due to sharp blow or a potential impact

  • Injury caused when blood clots are removed

  • Viral infections

  • Sepsis

  • Pneumonia

Symptoms of Chest Congestion

The chest congestion symptoms are elaborated below:

1. Long Term Presence of Edema

When pulmonary edema is present for a longer period, the patient will show symptoms like shortness of breath during physical activity, facing difficulty breathing while lying down, wheezing sound during breathing, waking up when feeling breathless, gaining weight in the legs, fatigue, and swelling in the lower body portion.

2. High Altitude Syndrome

The occurrence of chest congestion, in this case, is quite common. It is also called altitude sickness. Here, a person can experience headaches, rapid & irregular heartbeat, shortness of breath, fever, coughing, and a lot of difficulties while gaining altitude on foot.

How Pulmonary Edema is Diagnosed?

The congestion in the lungs occurs due to various reasons. The prime question is when to seek medical attention and get the ailment diagnosed. Medical practitioners suggest seeking attention when a patient is suffering from increased heart rate, crackling sounds in the lungs, rapid breathing, and abnormal heart sounds. The tests that are generally performed are complete blood count, ECG, chest X-ray, oxygen level test, etc. The lung congestion meaning and reason are then identified. It is then a treatment plan is set for the quick recovery of the patients.

How Congestive Lungs are Treated?

After the proper diagnosis and analysis of the chest congestion symptoms, the treatment plan is designed. If it is due to any pathogenic infection, the causative agent should be identified and the proper treatment plan should be initiated. Sometimes, it is required to give life support when it advances to venous congestion. If not treated, it can cause arterial thrombosis and end up in necrosis of the tissues.


In this article, we have studied what is congestion in the lungs, its causes, and how to treat them. The reasons should be properly studied and understood. Your knowledge related to the anatomy of the lungs will be needed too. Hence, study the symptoms, causes, and treatment of lung congestion and understand these anatomical concepts well.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. What Happens When there is an Infection in the Lungs?

The lungs, when affected by the presence of bacterial or viral pathogens, produce fluid as an immunogenic reaction to the parasitic invasion. The lungs get quickly filled with fluid causing a cloudy appearance. It also stops the lungs from inhaling oxygen properly.

2. How Cardiac Issues Can Cause Pulmonary Edema?

Cardiac issues can restrict partially the proper flow of blood into the left ventricle. It builds immense pressure in the arteries damaging the one-way valves. When these valves are weakened, the blood flows back to the lungs causing arterial tension. Hence, lung congestion is just a symptom that signifies the presence of grave philological issues in a related organ. Proper diagnosis and treatment should be initiated.