What is edema?

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What is edema?

Edema is a health problem characterized by swelling of the legs, feet, arms and hands due to excessive fluid accumulation in the tissues. It can affect a small area or the entire body. Medications, pregnancy, infections, and many other medical problems can cause edema. It occurs when fluid leaks from small blood vessels into surrounding tissues. This extra fluid builds up, causing the tissues to swell. Edema can be seen almost anywhere in the body.

What is edema? 

Edema is swelling in the body caused by excess fluid leaking from veins into tissues. Although it can affect any part of the body, it is more noticeable in the hands, arms, feet, ankles and legs.

What causes edema? 

Edema occurs because the tiny blood vessels (capillaries) in your body leak fluid. The leaking fluid is around the vein. accumulates in the tissues and causes swelling. Edema, which occurs in heart, liver and kidney diseases, is caused by the inability to remove salt, which holds the excess fluid in the body. Mild cases of edema can be caused by:

  • sitting or lying in the same position for too long
  • Eating too much salty food
  • Premenstrual hormonal change
  • Pregnancy

Edema can also occur as a side effect of certain medications. Some of these drugs are:

  • high blood pressure medications
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Steroids
  • estrogens
  • A group of diabetes medications called thiazolidinediones

What are the diseases that cause edema? 

In some cases, edema may be a sign of a more serious underlying medical condition. Heart failure, liver cirrhosis, venous insufficiency and kidney disease called nephrotic syndrome are the most common systemic diseases that cause edema. Various ailments and conditions can cause edema, including:

  • Congestive heart failure:  In patients with congestive heart failure, one or both of the lower parts of the heart called the ventricle loses its power to pump blood effectively. In this case, blood pools in the feet, ankles, and legs, causing edema. Congestive heart failure sometimes causes fluid to accumulate in the lungs, leading to pulmonary edema resulting in shortness of breath.
  • Liver cirrhosis:  There may be fluid accumulation in the abdominal cavity and legs due to liver damage.
  • Kidney disease:  In those with kidney disease, extra fluid and sodium in the circulation that cannot be excreted in the urine can cause edema. Edema due to kidney disease usually occurs around the legs and eyes.
  • Kidney damage: Damage  to the tiny, filtering blood vessels in the kidneys called glomeruli can result in the development of nephrotic syndrome. In nephrotic syndrome, low levels of protein (albumin) in the blood can cause fluid accumulation and edema in the tissues.
  • Weakness or damage to the leg veins:  In individuals with chronic venous insufficiency, the valves in the leg veins that provide unidirectional flow are weakened or damaged. This causes blood to pool in the leg veins and cause swelling.
  • Damage to the lymphatic system:  The body lymphatic system helps clear excess fluids from the tissues. If this system is damaged for a reason, such as cancer surgery, the lymph nodes and lymph vessels that drain the fluids in an area may not work properly and edema may occur as a result.
  • Severe, long-term protein deficiency.: Intake of very low levels of protein in the diet over a long period of time can cause a protein deficiency in the body, resulting in fluid leaking into the tissues and edema.

What are the types of edema? 

  • Edema usually occurs in the legs, feet, and ankles, and peripheral edema is called edema. Peripheral edema can also be seen less frequently in the arms and hands. It may be a symptom of a problem with the circulatory system, lymph nodes or kidneys.
  • Cerebral edema is excessive fluid accumulation in the brain. It can occur as a result of a head injury, a blockage or tear in a blood vessel in the brain, or a brain tumor.
  • Angioedema is called edema that occurs due to the accumulation of fluid under the skin. Unlike other types of edema that affect the skin surface, it affects the deeper layers of the skin and is often seen on the face.
  • Hereditary angioedema is a rare genetic condition characterized by capillaries leaking fluids into surrounding tissues, causing edema.
  • Papilledema is swelling of the optic nerve, the optic nerve, as a result of pressure due to increased intracranial pressure.
  • Macular edema is the development of edema in the central part of the eye and the macular part of the eye that perceives detailed vision.
  • Scrotal lymphedema is swelling in the scrotum due to fluid accumulation around the testicles.
  • Pulmonary edema is a condition caused by excessive accumulation of fluid in the lungs. Excess fluid collects in the many air sacs in the lungs, making it difficult to breathe.
  • Lymphedema is a type of edema caused by disorders in the lymph nodes and lymphatic system, which are responsible for eliminating microbes and removing excess fluid from the body. It usually occurs as a result of cancer treatment, such as surgery or radiotherapy.

What are the symptoms of edema? 

Symptoms of edema include:

  • Swelling in tissues, especially in the arms and legs, under the skin
  • Skin tension and shine
  • The formation of dimples after pressing and releasing the swollen areas for a few seconds
  • Increased abdominal size

Individuals with swollen, stretched or shiny skin or if pitting occurs after pressure in the swollen area, it is necessary to apply to a health institution for further examination and treatment. If there are signs of edema and one or more of the following complaints, emergency help should be sought immediately:

  • Shortness of breath
  • breathing difficulties
  • chest pain

These symptoms may indicate pulmonary edema requiring prompt treatment. Deep vein thrombosis should be suspected in cases of persistent leg pain and swelling that occur during prolonged inactivity. Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is the presence of a blood clot in the deep veins of the legs. DVT is a health problem that requires urgent treatment because it can cause life-threatening complications such as pulmonary embolism.

How is edema understood? 

To understand what may be causing the edema, the doctor first asks questions about the patient’s complaints and medical history. He then tries to identify the underlying cause by performing a physical examination. Generally, history and physical examination are sufficient for diagnosis. In some cases, imaging methods such as X-ray, ultrasound examination, magnetic resonance imaging, blood tests or urinalysis, and blood tests may be necessary for a definitive diagnosis.

How is edema treated? 

Mild edema usually goes away on its own. It is possible to accelerate the process by keeping the affected limb above the level of the heart. In the presence of more severe edema, it can be treated with drugs called diuretics, which help the body to remove excess fluid accumulated in the body through urine. However, since these drugs can cause side effects, they are used considering the general health status of the patient. These drugs offer a short-term solution. For permanent treatment, the factor causing edema should be determined and eliminated. For example, if edema has developed due to drug use, it may be necessary to discontinue them and start other drugs.

In order for the edema to decrease and not to recur, some applications can be done at home by consulting the doctor. Some of these applications are;

  • Moving and using the leg or arm muscles affected by edema can help pump excess fluid back to the heart.
  • Keeping the swollen part of the body above heart level several times a day may help. In some cases, elevating the affected body part during sleep may be an option.
  • Massaging the affected area toward the heart using firm but not painful pressure can help move excess fluid.
  • After the treatment of edema in the limbs, the use of compression stockings, gloves or sleeves may be beneficial to prevent fluid accumulation again.
  • Salt may exacerbate edema by increasing fluid retention. Therefore, the reduction of salt intake edema. can be effective in controlling

What are edema-stimulating foods? 

In the presence of mild edema that is not caused by a serious underlying disease, consuming various edema-stimulating foods can help relieve swelling. Some of the edema reliever foods are listed below;

  • Magnesium-rich foods:  Increasing magnesium intake is effective in reducing the body’s water retention rate. Good sources of magnesium include nuts, whole grains, dark chocolate, and leafy, green vegetables.
  • Foods for Vitamin B6:  Studies have shown that vitamin B6 reduces water retention in women with premenstrual syndrome. Foods rich in vitamin B6 include bananas, potatoes, walnuts and meat.
  • Foods containing plenty of potassium:  Potassium reduces water retention by lowering sodium levels and increasing urine production. Bananas, avocados, and tomatoes are examples of foods high in potassium.
  • Natural diuretic herbs:  Dandelion is an herb used as a natural diuretic. It helps reduce water retention, especially when consumed as a leaf extract.