Know the Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis and Treatment of Edema
Edema is swelling caused by excess fluid trapped in the body’s tissues, especially the skin. Edema usually starts slowly, but the onset can be sudden. It occurs in the skin, especially on the legs, feet and ankles but it can affect other parts of the body including the muscles, bowels, eye, lungs and brain.
Edema often occurs in feet, ankles and legs, but can also affect other parts of the body, such as the face, hands and abdomen. Though the disease can affect anyone, it mostly affects old people beyond the age of 65 or pregnant ladies.
Types of Edema
There are different types of edema in specific organs-
When there is an accumulation of fluid in the interstitial tissue around the alveoli in the lungs, it is referred to as pulmonary edema. It is a serious condition as it can often obstruct breathing.
Cerebral edema is also a very serious condition in which fluid builds up in the brain. This can result in life threatening conditions like trauma to the head, tumor, allergic reaction, or if a blood vessel gets blocked or bursts.
Macular edema occurs when fluid builds up in a part of the eye called the macula, which enables detailed or central vision. It is a serious complication of diabetic retinopathy
This type of edema usually affects the hands, arms, legs and feet.
Papilledema occurs when there is pressure inside the skull and around the brain, resulting in swelling of the optic nerve of the eye.
Causes of Edema
Mild cases of edema may be caused by-
- Eating too much salty food.
- Sitting or standing in one position for too long such as travelling over a long distance.
- Having premenstrual signs and symptoms.
- High altitude.
- Burns and sunburn.
Edema can also be a side effect of some medications such as-
- NSAIDs (Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as Ibuprofen and Naproxen.
- Thiazolidinediones or diabetic medications.
- Steroid drugs.
- Chemotherapy drugs.
- Calcium channel blockers.
Other causes may include-
- Congestive heart failure.
- Kidney disease.
- Kidney damage.
- Varicose veins.
- Thyroid disease.
- Severe, long-term protein deficiency.
Symptoms of Edema
Symptoms of edema include-
- Swelling or puffiness directly under the skin, especially in the arms or legs.
- Stretched or shiny skin over the swollen area.
- Difficulty moving joints.
- An increased abdominal size.
- Difficulty breathing.
- Chest pain.
- Shortness of breath.
- Skin that retains an indentation (pits or a dimple) after pressure is applied to a small area for several seconds.
Risk factors of Edema
If left untreated, edema can cause an increased risk of-
- Skin ulcers.
- Difficulty walking.
- Decreased blood circulation.
- Increased risk of infection in the swollen area.
Diagnosis for Edema
To make a diagnosis, the doctor will review your medical history and perform a physical exam.
The doctor may order tests including-
- X rays.
- Ultrasound exams.
- MRI scan (Magnetic resonance imaging).
- Urinalysis or blood test.
All these above listed tests might help determine the underlying cause of edema.
Treatment for Edema
Based on your personal medical history, your doctor will determine if this treatment option is good for you.
Mild cases of edema usually resolve on their own, particularly with certain lifestyle adjustment. More severe cases of edema may be treated with medications like diuretics that help the body expel excess fluid in the urine.
If edema is caused by medication use, the doctor may check for alternative medicine that doesn’t cause edema or adjust your prescription.
Certain lifestyle changes that can help reduce the symptoms of edema includes-
- Reduced salt intake.
- Avoid smoking.
- Keeping the body well hydrated.
- Wear compression socks, sleeves or gloves to prevent swelling from recurring after it might have gone down in your limbs.
- Elevating the affected leg or arm above heart level several times a day.
Home Remedies to Treat Edema
Green tea is a great stimulant and has diuretic properties which helps in metabolizing extra fluids in the body. This, in turn, can help treat edema.
Grape seed extract-
Grape seed extract has antioxidant properties and can be used to treat edema. Consume grape seed extract supplement 2 times a day.
The use of juniper oil can help reduce swelling and water retention caused by edema as it has antioxidant, diuretic and detoxifying properties. Mix the juniper oil with the carrier oil like olive or coconut oil and apply this mixture on the swollen parts.
Cranberries are rich in minerals such as calcium and potassium. It also possesses diuretic properties which makes it an excellent natural remedy to treat edema. Drink a cup of cranberry juice daily.
Turmeric contains a compound called curcumin, which has anti-inflammatory and detoxifying properties. These properties can help treat the swelling and pain associated with edema. Mix the turmeric in a glass of warm water or hot milk and consume it.
Mustard oil is effective in reducing the pain associated with edema as it contains allyl isothiocyanate. For this, gently massage the affected area with warm mustard oil.
When to see a doctor?
Anyone experiencing shortness of breath, chest pain, difficulty breathing or swelling of a limb should seek medical attention immediately.