Gately condition 'rare' for young people

The music world is peppered with scores of untimely deaths, with Stephen Gately now among the list of stars gone too soon.

The Boyzone and West End singer died after suffering fluid on the lungs, in medical terms pulmonary oedema.

Experts warn it can be common in the over-50s as people suffer inefficient heart pumping, while in younger generations there is often an underlying problem.

Dr Noemi Eiser, honorary medical director of the British Lung Foundation, explained the condition.

"Generally it's due to a problem with the heart not working well enough and that puts back pressure on the arteries from the heart into the vessels inside the lung," she said.

"It's this back pressure that forces fluid from inside the blood vessels into lung tissue.

"You can't breathe, it's like drowning. It's very unpleasant breathlessness and will come on very suddenly.

"Generally you don't expect to see it very frequently in young people, it's quite rare."

Dr Eiser said the condition has been linked to drugs overdoses.

"With overdoses of things like heroin or methadone or cocaine you can get it, but I wouldn't like to say that this is the most likely cause in this case," she said.

Heavy drinking and smoking also put pressure on the heart and have been linked to the condition.

Gately's manager, pop guru Louis Walsh, remembered the 33-year-old star for his "good living" lifestyle.

Lawyer Gerald Kean, who spoke on behalf of the family, rejected claims of a marathon drinking binge before the death and recalled rarely seeing him drunk.

Spanish officials have not revealed the underlying cause for Gately's death.