The main causes of edema and how to treat it


Edema is the swelling caused by excess fluid trapped in the tissues of the body. It usually occurs in the feet, ankles, and legs, but it can also occur in other parts of the body. This condition is often the result of congestive heart failure (CHF). It can also be the result of taking medication, pregnancy, or another underlying condition, such as kidney disease or cirrhosis of the liver.

A whole series conditions: congestive heart failure and lung, liver, kidney and thyroid disease: may lead to edema. It can also be caused by medicines to control blood pressure or by an allergic reaction.

Signs that you have edema include the following symptoms:

– Swelling or puffiness of the tissues directly under the skin, especially in the legs or arms.

– Arms or legs that feel full or heavy

– shiny or stretched skin

– Skin retains indentations, or a dimple, after being pressed for several seconds.

– Inability to adjust to clothing or jewelry

– A tightening or warming of the skin near the swelling

– Difficulty moving the joints

– An increase in the size of the abdomen

If you have any of these symptoms, make an appointment with your doctor. However, you should seek immediate medical attention if these symptoms are accompanied by shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, or chest pain.

What is the connection with congestive heart failure?

When a person has heart failure, one or both lower chambers of the heart lose their ability to pump blood efficiently. Blood can then back up into the legs, ankles and feet, causing swelling, or edema. If the person spends a lot of time on their back, the swelling may end up in the back.

Heart failure can also cause swelling in the abdomen and may sometimes cause a buildup of fluid in the lungs, called pulmonary oedema. Pulmonary edema can cause shortness of breath. Although uncommon, pulmonary edema can be life-threatening. A person suffering from edema accompanied by shortness of breath should consult a doctor without delay.

Common causes of edema

Edema can be the result of a number of other underlying health conditions.

– Chronic venous insufficiency

Improper functioning of the venous valves of the leg can lead to swelling of the leg. In people with this condition, the veins have trouble carrying enough blood to the feet and then to the heart, so blood pools in the legs. The increased pressure causes fluid to be pushed out of blood vessels into surrounding tissues, resulting in edema.

– Kidney disease

Edema can occur because the disease leads to excess fluid and sodium in the circulatory system, which raises pressure in the blood vessels and leads to swelling. Kidney disease can cause edema in several areas.

– Kidney damage Nephrotic syndrome

It occurs when the small filtering blood vessels of the kidneys do not function properly and allow the loss of protein in the urine. This causes low protein levels in the blood, which can lead to fluid buildup and edema.

– Cirrhosis of the liver

A scarring of the liver tissue, it can lead to abdominal edema. This happens because cirrhosis causes a lack of protein in the liver, which can lead to increased pressure in blood vessels and fluid seepage in the abdomen.

– Severe lung conditions

Conditions such as emphysema can lead to edema if the pressure in the lungs and heart becomes too high .


If left untreated, edema can lead to a number of complications:

Increasingly painful swelling


Difficulty walking

Tight, itchy skin

skin ulcers, with an increased risk of infection of the area affected


Decreased blood circulation

Treatments for edema:

Mild cases of edema usually go away on their own, especially if you change your way of life. More severe cases of edema can be treated with diuretics (medicines that help your body expel excess fluid through urine).

If the edema is caused by an underlying health condition, such as heart failure, long-term management should focus on treating the underlying disease.

Certain lifestyle modifications may help reduce edema

– Elevate the affected limb

Holding the swollen arm or leg above heart level several times a day can help reduce swelling. In some cases, elevating the affected limb during sleep may also be beneficial.

– Exercise

Moving the muscles in the part of the body affected by edema, especially the legs, can help pump excess fluid back to the heart. Talk to your healthcare professional about which exercises are right for you.

– Massage

Firm but non-painful movements around the affected area towards the heart can help stimulate the evacuation of excess fluid from the area.

– Reduction salt intake

Too much salt can increase fluid retention and make swelling worse. Talk to your doctor about the best ways to limit sodium in your diet.

– Compression

Your doctor may recommend compression socks, sleeves or gloves once the swelling has gone down in your limbs, to help prevent it from happening again. These garments maintain pressure on the arms and legs to prevent fluid buildup.

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