Edema is the accumulation of fluid trapped in your body’s tissues, resulting in swelling. It usually occurs in your ankles and legs but can affect other body parts, including your face, hands, and abdomen. Edema can affect anyone, but it commonly affects pregnant people and adults 65 or older. It can be treated through lifestyle changes, such as diet and exercise.
Types And Symptoms Of Edema
Below are the various types of edema and their symptoms.
- Peripheral edema: It can affect the feet, ankles, legs, hands, and arms and manifest as swelling, puffiness, and difficulty moving some body parts.
- Pulmonary edema: It occurs when there’s too much fluid stored in the lungs, which makes breathing difficult due to congestive heart failure or acute lung injury. As a severe condition, it can be a medical emergency, resulting in respiratory failure and death.
- Cerebral edema: It occurs in the brain due to several reasons that can be deadly. It can manifest as headaches, neck pain or stiffness, whole or partial vision loss, changes in consciousness or mental state, nausea, vomiting, and dizziness.
- Macular edema: It is a severe complication of diabetic retinopathy, whereby the macula, the part of the eye for detailed, central vision, gets swollen. The individual may experience changes to their central vision and perception of colors.
- Pitting edema: This type is common in peripheral edema, and it involves the skin retaining an indentation or pit when pressure is applied to it.
- Periorbital edema: This is the inflammation and puffiness around the eye or eyes. The puffiness results from fluid accumulation and is often temporary.
What Are The Causes Of Edema
The following are various possible causes for an edema diagnosis:
- Gravity: When you keep sitting or standing in one place for too long, it can result in a natural downflow of water into your arms, legs, and feet (dependent edema).
- Weakened vein valves (venous insufficiency): Weak vein valves make it hard for veins to return blood to your heart, causing varicose veins and fluid buildup in the legs.
- Medical conditions: Conditions such as heart failure and lung, liver, kidney, and thyroid diseases contain edema.
- Side effects from medication: Certain drugs, such as blood pressure or pain management medications, can result in edema as a side effect.
- Malnutrition: Not consuming a well-balanced diet or consuming foods high in salt (sodium) could cause fluid to build up in various parts of your body.
- Pregnancy: Leg swelling during pregnancy occurs as the uterus exerts pressure on your blood vessels in the lower part of your body.
- Compromised immune system: An allergic reaction, infection, burns, trauma, or clots can result in edema.
Treatment For Edema
Treatment for edema depends on the cause, particularly if the reason is associated with an underlying health condition, such as the following:
- If a lung disease like emphysema or chronic bronchitis is responsible for edema, your healthcare provider will advise you to quit smoking if you smoke.
- Concerning edema cases that relate to chronic heart failure, your provider will advise lifestyle changes to treat your condition, which includes monitoring your weight, fluid intake, and salt intake, including reducing the amount of alcohol you drink.
- If you experience edema as a side effect of a prescribed medication, your provider might stop or reduce its dosage to treat the swelling. However, keep taking your medicines unless your provider tells you to stop.
Other treatment options:
- When sitting or lying down, use a pillow below your legs to lift them above your heart’s level.
- Avoid sitting or standing for long periods without moving or taking short walks.
- Use support socks, stockings, or sleeves that apply pressure to areas of your body to stop fluids from developing there. There are also edema shoes for people with chronic edema who need customizable footwear for swelling.
- Follow your doctor’s instructions for taking medications, which may include taking a diuretic (known as a “water pill”) to help your body eliminate excess fluid.
Edema happens when fluid develops in your tissues, usually your feet, legs, and ankles. It can affect anyone, particularly people who are pregnant and adults aged 65 and older. There are various types of edema, and each has its own symptoms. Treatment includes lifestyle changes, including diet and exercise.