Edema is a condition wherein a body cavity or any part of the body is filled with fluid, often interstitial fluid. It is also known as hydropsy or simply dropsy. Often, the patient will not feel any pain in the swollen area but that does not mean that this condition should not be taken seriously.
In many cases, edema is generalized to the whole body so that the exact cause may not be known. Often, many organs are involved when there is generalized edema. There are also cases wherein the edema is limited to certain parts of the body. The causes for these specific edemas are easier to identify. For instance, in pulmonary edema, the lungs are affected and the possible causes are related to lung problems.
How Edemas Form?
The main cause of developing edema is when the tiny blood vessels—the capillaries— in the body leaks fluid. This leaked fluid then accumulates beneath the skin and in time will lead to the characteristic puffy swelling that is edema.
The sprouting up of edema is a result of the kidney’s reaction. Once a leakage from the capillary has been detected by the kidney, it begins to endeavor to retain more sodium and water as a means to compensate for the fluids lost by the blood vessels. In turn, this will cause the capillaries to leak more fluid, causing the leaked fluids to leak into the surrounding tissues, resulting to their becoming swollen.
Other causes of edema are the following:
- Sitting for too long in one position.
- Eating too much salty food.
- Pregnancy. However, when excessive swelling is noticed during pregnancy, one should seek medical treatment immediately as this may be a case of preeclampsia.
- As an effect of taking vasodilators (drugs that open blood vessels).
Home Care for Edema
To help manage edema, try the following home care tips:
- Keep the affected part elevated. This is especially useful for edema that affects the legs.
- Reduce intake of salt.
- Avoid sudden changes in temperature. Do not take a hot shower or soak in a tub of hot water.
- Try to move the part that is affected. Keeping this part moving can help improve circulation to reduce swelling.