Posted September 5, 2022 by Anusha ‐ 2 min read
Edema occurs when fluid builds up in your tissues, often in your feet, legs and ankles. Edema can affect anyone, especially people who are pregnant and adults age 65 and older. Treatment involves lifestyle changes, including diet and exercise.
Causes of Edema
If you spend a lot of time sitting or standing in one place for too long, water naturally pulls down into your arms, legs and feet (dependent edema).
Weakened valves of your veins (venous insufficiency)
When the valves in your veins are weak, it is hard for your veins to push blood back up to your heart, and leads to varicose veins and a buildup of fluid in the legs.
Underlying medical conditions
Conditions like heart failure and lung, liver, kidney and thyroid diseases have edema as a symptom.
Side effects from medication
Some drugs, like blood pressure or pain management medications, have edema as a side effect.
If you aren’t eating a well-balanced diet or if you eat a lot of foods high in salt (sodium), fluid could build up in different parts of your body.
Swelling in your legs during pregnancy occurs as the uterus puts pressure on your blood vessels in the lower trunk of your body.
Compromised immune system
An allergic reaction, infection, burns, trauma or clots can lead to edema.
Symptoms of Edema
Symptoms of swelling include:
An area of your body is larger than it was a day ago.
The skin over the swollen area looks stretched and shiny.
Difficulty walking if your legs, ankles or feet swell.
You may be coughing or have trouble breathing.
You feel full or tightness in your swollen body part.
Mild pain or a sore feeling in the affected area.
Diagnosis of Edema
Your healthcare provider will give a physical examination to diagnose edema, followed by diagnostic tests to find the cause. They will look for swelling, especially on parts of your body where your skin has a shiny or stretched appearance.
Treatment of Edema
Treatment for edema varies based on the cause, especially if the cause relates to an underlying health condition. For example:
If lung disease causes edema, such as emphysema or chronic bronchitis, your healthcare provider will recommend quitting smoking if you smoke.
If edema occurs with chronic heart failure, your provider will recommend lifestyle changes to treat your diagnosis by monitoring your weight, fluid intake and salt intake.
Your provider might recommend cutting back on the amount of alcohol you drink.
If edema is a side effect of a medication you are taking, your provider might stop or lower the dosage of your medication to resolve the swelling.
Do not stop taking your medication unless your provider tells you to do so.