Edema: what is it?

In this article we will find out in detail what is edema, what are the symptoms, the causes, the consequences and what are the treatments to treat it. 

First of all let's find out what theEdema. The edema, also called dropsy, is the abnormal increase in interstitial tissue fluid.

This increase in liquid can be caused by several factors: 

  • Circulatory stasis
  • The alteration of the vessel walls
  • Retention of water and mineral salts
  • The alteration of plasma proteins

Edema can affect the whole body, or just a specific area. 

In the event that the entire body is affected, of course, the accumulation of liquids will be very high, therefore it will lead to an increase in body weight. 

In this case, when the edema affects the whole body, let's talk about anasacra, often caused by severe heart failure, nephrotic syndrome or liver failure. 

In the event that the patient has an anomaly of the lymphatic system and a high impermeability of the lymphatic vessels, then it is lymphedema which can occur later to traumas caused by surgery, radiotherapy or having a congenital origin. 

Generally the most affected parts of the body are: feet, arms, ankles, hands and legs. It occurs in greater shape in the elderly and in pregnant women because the edema is formed when the interstitial fluid, ie the aqueous solution present between the cells of a tissue. The edema is formed precisely in the absence of this liquid. 

It can also cause further problems, for this reason the number one advice is to immediately contact the family doctor. 

In the next chapter we will find out what are the causes and symptoms

The causes of edema

As also mentioned in the previous chapter, mainly edemas are divided into two main categories:

  • Localized edemas 
  • Generalized edemas

The first, localized edemas, mainly affect the lower limbs, hands and face. The cause could be the stagnation of blood due to an obstruction of the vessel that prevents the normal outflow of blood. 

But what are they caused by? Generally the causes are multiple, such as:

  • Varicose veins,
  • Infections or inflammations
  • Muscular, bone or joint traumas (accidental or sports)
  • Food allergies or insect bites
  • Cellulite or other soft tissue infections
  • Parasitosis, such as lymphatic filariasis
  • Geloni

Localized edema, except in rare cases, it is not caused by congenital malformations of the lymphatic system. Lymphedema, caused by the lack of lymph nodes, is more common as a cause.  

Generalized edemas concerninstead, different organs: eyes, liver, lung, brain, kidneys and heart and are caused by:

  • Meningitis
  • Ischemia or brain bleeding
  • Nephrotic syndrome
  • Encephalitis
  • Extended stay in bed
  • Tumors
  • Deep vein thrombosis
  • Diabetic ketoacidosis
  • Sepsi
  • Liver cirrhosis
  • Carbon monoxide, methyl alcohol or lead poisoning
  • Head trauma
  • Burns
  • Metabolic imbalances resulting from dialysis
  • Drug abuse (NSAIDs, estrogens or calcium channel blockers)
  • Abdominal obesity
  • Hepatic failure
  • thrombophlebitis
  • Glaucoma
  • Excessive consumption of salted foods
  • Cardiocirculatory decompensation
  • glomerulonephritis
  • Marked weight loss or malnutrition (eg Kwashiorkor)
  • Deficient vitamin states
  • Lung diseases
  • Hypoxia

Finally we find idiopathic edema: it is characterized by water retention with a consequent increase in body weight and occurs only in women. 

The symptoms of idiopathic edema are:

  • Irritability,
  • Headache,
  • Insomnia,
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Breast tension

The symptoms of edema

Now that we have discovered the causes of edema, let's find out what the symptoms are

The number one symptom is the swelling that can affect any part of the body, without exclusions. 

Very common is the edema localized to the legs and arms which has the following symptoms: 

  • Difficulties in movement,
  • Sense of tension or heaviness of the affected limb
  • Elephantiasis (in the most rare and severe cases) with hard and irreversible edema
  • Pain
  • Photograph of a patient with a clear leg edema

Other symptoms of edema could be redness, accompanied by the appearance of painful swelling.

Edema can also be linked to forms of allergy, in this case the symptoms could strike hands or face and be accompanied by a swelling of the eyes, eyelids, tongue or larynx. In this case we talk about angioedema and it also causes burning, in addition to the risk of suffocation.

Edema: the remedies

Now that we've discovered what it is edema and what are the causes and symptoms, we just have to find out what the remedies are. 

We must first know that edema is a pathology, in most cases, temporary that tends to disappear by itself, without drug administration

But there are some tips that are very useful to follow: raise the legs to improve circulation, reduce weight, use compression stockings to favor venous return to the heart, avoid standing for too long and increase physical activity (walking, swimming or cycling).

Obviously, the number one advice, always remains to consult your doctor nas soon as the first symptoms of edema occur


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