Edema is a condition that occurs when excessive fluid gets trapped in the body’s tissue, which leads to a swelling in different parts of the body. This condition can affect various parts of the body, but is more common in the hands, legs, ankles and feet. Edema occurs when the small blood vessels in the body, that is, the capillaries, leak a fluid that results from damage to the capillaries or because of excessive pressure on the capillaries as well as reduced levels of a protein (serum albumin) in the blood. As the body begins to sense that the capillaries are leaking, the kidneys start retaining higher amounts of water and sodium than is normal, in order to compensate for the fluid that is lost from the blood vessels. The amount of fluid that circulates through the body increases, causing the capillaries to leak further. Gradually, the fluid leaks on to the surrounding tissue, which causes it to swell.
There can be many factors that cause edema. Some of the most common causes are:
- Staying or sitting in one position, without a break for a long period of time
- The excessive consumption of foods that are too high in salt
- The presence of certain serious medical conditions, which include congestive heart failure, cirrhosis, kidney diseases or damage, an inadequate lymphatic system and damage or weakness to the veins in the legs
- Premenstrual symptoms and signs
- The use of certain medication like – Drugs which open the blood vessels, estrogens, calcium channel blockers, Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDS) and some diabetes medicines
- Pregnancy (especially the later stages) as it can cause the hands, feet and face to swell, due to excessive water retention
Some of the most common signs and symptoms associated with Edema are –
- Shiny or stretched skin
- A subcutaneous tissue, that is, puffiness or swelling of the tissues that are under the skin
- A dimple staying on the skin, after being pressed for a couple of seconds
- An increase in the size of the abdomen, for no apparent reason
Pulmonary edema (edema in the lungs) is a very serious condition and may even be a potentially life threatening disease. Please get in touch with your doctor, without any delay, if you notice symptoms of pulmonary edema, which are – chest pain, difficulty in breathing and shortness in breath. The edema treatment for both the conditions may differ to some extent.