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Altitude illness, which comprises of acute mountain sickness (AMS) and its life threatening complications, high altitude cerebral edema (HACE) and high altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE) is now a well recognized disease process. AMS and HACE are generally thought to be a continuum. Some historical facts about the illness, its new intriguing pathophysiological processes, and clinical picture are discussed here. Although the review deals with both HACE and HAPE, HAPE is covered in greater detail due to the recent important findings related to its pathophysiology and prevention mechanisms. Relevant clinical correlation, the differential diagnosis of altitude sickness for a more sophisticated approach to the disease phenomenon, the possibility of dehydration being a risk factor for altitude sickness, the hypothetical role of angiogenesis in cerebral edema, and the emphasis on some vulnerable groups at high altitude are some of the other newer material discussed in this review. A clear-cut treatment and basic prevention guidelines are included in two panels, and finally the limited literature on the role of genetic factors on susceptibility to altitude sickness is briefly discussed.

Original publication




Journal article


Travel Med Infect Dis

Publication Date





199 - 211