What is edema?

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The retention of fluid in the body is commonly called as edema. The accumulation of fluid can cause the tissues to end up swollen. The swelling can develop in one part of the body as a result of an injury or it can be general. This is usually the case when it comes to edema that develops due to certain health issues such as kidney failure or heart failure. Aside from the puffiness or swelling in the skin, edema can also cause the following:


  • Discoloration of the skin
  • Stiff or rigid joints
  • Pitting edema in which an imprint is left when swollen skin is pressed on
  • Limbs that are aching and tender
  • There is weight loss or gain
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Increased heart rate

What are the types of edema?

Edema can occur in any part of the body, but it is quite common in the feet and ankles which are called peripheral edema. The other types of this swelling include the following:

  • Pulmonary edema affects the lungs
    In most cases, it is normal to have minimal swelling in the legs at the end of the day especially if the individual has been sitting or standing for extended periods.
  • Cerebral edema affects the brain
  • Macular edema affects the eyes

When it comes to idiopathic edema, it is a term used to describe edema in which the cause is unknown.

Possible causes of edema

In most cases, it is normal to have minimal swelling in the legs at the end of the day especially if the individual has been sitting or standing for extended periods. The swelling is often an indication of an underlying health issue. It can occur as a result of the following:

  • Kidney disease
  • Pregnancy
  • Chronic lung disease
  • Heart failure
  • Thyroid disease
  • Malnutrition
  • Liver disease
  • Certain medications such as corticosteroids or drugs for hypertension
  • Using contraceptive pills

It is important to note that immobility and standing for extended periods are the two common causes of edema in the legs. Other possible causes include severe varicose veins, blood clot, skin burns and leg injuries or surgeries.

Treatment for edema

Always bear in mind that it eventually clears up on its own. Nevertheless, the doctor might recommend self-care measures to minimize the retention of fluid such as the following:

  • Regular exercise such as cycling, walking and swimming
  • Cut down excess weight
  • Elevate the legs 3-4 times throughout the day to improve the circulation
  • Avoid standing for extended periods of time.

If there is an underlying health condition that causes the imbalance of fluid, it must clear up after the condition has been diagnosed and properly treated.

What is lymphedema?

Lymphedema involves swelling in the legs due to a blockage in the lymphatic system or an inherited condition specifically Milroy’s disease that triggers the abnormality of the lymph vessels.

The distinguishing feature of lymphedema is that it is a long-term condition that is capable of triggering pain, discomfort and mobility loss. This condition cannot be cured but can be managed using various treatments including proper skin care, compression stockings, elevation and lymphatic massage.

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