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Edema is the medical terminology for swelling and this swelling normally accounts to retention of fluid inside the tissues. Your hands, arms, feet, ankles, and feet are more vulnerable to edema; this condition is also known as peripheral edema. Edema can happen in and around the brain (cerebral edema), eyes (eye edema) and even in pulmonary veins or arteries (pulmonary edema).

Symptoms of Edema

The symptoms of edema vary as per the severity and the cause associated with it. In general, the distinguishable symptoms are:

  • Visible swelling of the skin
  • Puffiness on the affected part
  • Weight gain/ weight loss
  • Bloating in abdomen
  • Skin is stretched
  • Hand and neck veins look prominent
  • Stiffness in joints
  • Heaviness in legs and hands
  • Shortness of breath in pulmonary edema
  • Allergy due to bee sting and insect bites
  • Rapid heart beat
  • Pain in the affected part
  • Cough with frothy sputum in case of pulmonary edema

Causes of Edema

Edema occurs due to fluid leakage from blood vessels into the surrounding tissues. Water retention occurs in the affected parts which causes the swelling.

General causes of edema:

  • Sitting idle for long time or lack of body movement and insufficient physical activity
  • Exposure to too much heat
  • Before and during periods, menopause
  • Intake of too much salt
  • Burns, inflammation, infection, allergy
  • Vitamin B1 deficiency
  • Hormonal changes during pregnancy
  • Taking contraceptive pills, NSAIDs, hormonal pills, calcium channel blockers

Clinical conditions that result in edema

Diagnosis of Edema

Diagnosis begins with analysing the medical history of the patient and then conducting physical exam to decipher the underlying cause. Depending on the nature of the symptoms and the suspected type of edema, your doctor will perform the following tests:

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Treatment of Edema

Treatment is completely dependent on the underlying cause and in most cases the edema disappears with cure of the disorder. Few common medicines that are administered by doctors are:

  • Diuretics for normalizing flow of urine or excretion of water from kidneys
  • Administration of blood thinners, estrogens, vasodilators, NSAIDS, and calcium channel blockers
  • Angiotensin-receptor blockers and angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors and may also be suggested
  • Oxygen therapy may be done to treat macular disease that causes eye edema
  • Lastly, tumors, cysts and clots that block blood flow may be treated with chemotherapy, surgery, etc. The edema heals automatically after that.

Self Care for Edema

Certain change in day-to-day habits will help you to manage edema and you can incorporate them to alleviate the swelling and discomfort. They are:

  • Cut down sodium intake. Restrict eating salt loaded fast foods and French fries
  • Take warm compress around the swelling, especially on feet but NOT sauna and heat therapies
  • If you are travelling or sitting idle for a long time, then try to move your legs and hands frequently
  • Include physical activities – daily walking or jogging or yoga

Edema can be completely cured if you do not delay in getting yourself treated. Lead a healthy life and rely on those self care therapies to overcome minor swelling problems. Good Luck !

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Written by: Saptakee sengupta
Date last updated: January 06, 2015