Edema

When you have an injury while playing sports or during any activity, which symptom do you first observe? Swelling, right? This is nothing but edema. Painless edema in either the hands or both the feet (bipedal edema) is commonly seen in our daily lives, and hence we take it for granted. Remember! It can be a sign of an underlying serious condition.

Edema occurs when the blood vessels leak and release fluids into the nearby tissues. The extra fluid builds up and makes the tissue swell. It mostly affects the hands and legs. Conditions like medications infections, pregnancy, and other health conditions can cause edema.

Types of edema

There are many types of edema, but the common ones are:

Peripheral edema: occurs in hands, legs, arms, and ankles

Cerebral edema: occurs in and around the brain

Eye edema: occurs in and around the eyes. Examples include macular edema, corneal edema, puffiness around the eyes is also a type of edema called periorbital edema.

Pulmonary edema: occurs due to retention of fluid in the lungs

Signs and symptoms

The edema symptoms develop gradually over time and depend on the underlying cause.

  • Swelling or puffiness under the injured skin is the most common symptom of edema
  • Stretched skin
  • Swelling of abdomen
  • When pressure is applied for few seconds with a finger, the skin retains a dimple, a condition called as pitting edema

Call your doctor immediately when you experience the symptoms mentioned above and when you have chest pain and difficulty in breathing.

Causes

Edema occurs when the blood vessels leak fluid into the surround tissues. Mild cases of edema occur if you sit or stay in one position for too long (one of the important causes of pedal edema) or if you eat too much of salty food. Pregnancy and premenstrual signs also cause edema.

The other causes of edema are:

Medications: Certain medications such as high blood pressure medications, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, steroidal drugs, estrogens and diabetes drugs can cause edema.

Health conditions: edema can be a sign of underlying health condition such as congestive heart failure, liver damage, kidney damage, weakness or damage to veins in your legs and damage to the lymphatic system. Diabetes and arthritis also cause edema in your hands and legs.

Risk factors

If you are pregnant, your body stores more sodium and water than usual, increasing the risk of edema disease. Certain medications like steroids and estrogens also increase the risk of edema. Sometimes, a lymph node gets obstructed after the surgery, leading to edema of an arm or leg on one side.

Complications

If you do not treat edema on time, then you may develop complications like difficulty walking, a stiffness of the arms and legs, decreased blood circulation, an elasticity of arteries, veins, joints, and muscles and increased risk of skin ulcers.

Diagnosis

Your doctor will perform physical test and ask about your medical history. If there are any indications for an underlying medical condition causing edema, your doctor will recommend tests such as X-rays, ultrasound exams, blood tests and urine tests.

Treatment

Mild edema usually goes away on its own when you raise your affected limb higher than your heart. This is the best approach of mild leg swelling treatment.

More severe edema treatment involves the use of medications such as diuretics that expel excess fluid from the body in the form of urine. This approach is followed as a part of pulmonary edema treatment.

Treatment for edema caused by blood clots requires the use of blood-thinners that break the clot. Chemotherapy or radiation is also recommended if the tumor blocks blood or lymph that result in edema.

Home remedies

Following certain tips can help you manage edema at home.

  • Perform exercises to move the body parts that are affected with edema.
  • Elevate the swollen body part above your heart; do this many times a day
  • Massage the affected area towards your heart by applying firm pressure. This helps to move the excess fluid out of that area
  • Use compression stockings, sleeves or gloves as they put pressure on the affected limbs as a part of swollen legs treatment etc.
  • Last but not least, reduce salt intake as salt increases fluid retention and worsens edema.