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Edema

Edema is swelling or puffiness of parts of the body caused by fluid retention i.e. excess fluid is trapped in the body’s tissues. Edema happens most often in the feet, ankles, and legs, but can affect other parts of the body, such as the face, hands, and abdomen. It can also involve the entire body.

Normally the body maintains a balance of fluid in tissues by ensuring that the same of amount of water entering the body also leaves it. The circulatory system transports fluid within the body via its network of blood vessels. The fluid, which contains oxygen and nutrients needed by the cells, moves from the walls of the blood vessels into the body’s tissues. After its nutrients are used up, fluid moves back into the blood vessels and returns to the heart. The lymphatic system (a network of channels in the body that carry lymph, a colorless fluid containing white blood cells to fight infection) also absorbs and transports this fluid. In edema, either too much fluid moves from the blood vessels into the tissues, or not enough fluid moves from the tissues back into the blood vessels. This fluid imbalance can cause mild to severe swelling in one or more parts of the body.

There are many types of edema. The most common ones are –

  • Peripheral edema – In the feet (pedal edema), ankles, legs, hands and arms.
  • Cerebral edema – In and around the brain (cerebral edema).
  • Eye edema – In and around the eyes, e.g. macular edema, corneal edema, periorbital edema (puffiness around the eyes. Macular edema is a serious complication of diabetic retinopathy.

Pregnant women and older adults often get edema, but it can happen to anyone. Edema is a symptom, not a disease or disorder. In fact, edema is a normal response to injury. Edema becomes a concern when it persists beyond the inflammatory phase. Widespread, long-term edema can indicate a serious underlying health problem.

Causes

Edema has many possible causes –

  • Blood clots – Clots can cause pooling of fluid and may be accompanied by discoloration and pain. In some instances, clots may cause no pain.
  • Edema can occur as a result of gravity, especially from sitting or standing in one place for too long. Water naturally gets pulled down into your legs and feet.
  • It can happen from a weakening in the valves of the veins in the legs (a condition called venous insufficiency). This problem makes it hard for the veins to push blood back up to the heart, and leads to varicose veins and a buildup of fluid in the legs.
  • Certain diseases — such as congestive heart failure and lung, liver, kidney, and thyroid diseases can cause edema or make it worse.
  • Some drugs, such as medications that you are taking for your blood pressure or to control pain, may cause or worsen edema.
  • An allergic reaction, severe inflammation, burns, trauma, clot(s), or poor nutrition can also cause edema.
  • Too much salt from your diet can make edema worse.
  • Being pregnant can cause edema in the legs as the uterus puts pressure on the blood vessels in the lower trunk of the body.
  • Edema can be a side effect of some medications, including:
    • High blood pressure medications
    • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
    • Steroid drugs
    • Estrogens
    • Certain diabetes medications called thiazolidinediones
  • Menopause – Around the period of the menopause, as well as after, hormone fluctuations can cause fluid retention. Hormone replacement therapy after the menopause can also cause edema.
  • Malnutrition and/or bad diet – Dietitians say low consumption of thiamine (vitamin B1), as well as insufficient vitamins B6 and B5, may contribute toward fluid retention. Low levels of albumin may also play a part – low albumin levels can also be caused by kidney disease.

Symptoms

The fluid build-up may cause swelling in one particular part of the body, after an injury, for example, or may be more general. Generalized edema is usually seen in health disorders such as heart failure or kidney disease. Symptoms include –

  • Swollen and puffy skin
  • Skin discoloration
  • Skin that “pits” when pressed
  • Stiff, tender and painful joints
  • Weight gain or weight loss
  • Raised blood pressure and heart rate

Complications

If left untreated, edema can cause –

  • Increasingly painful swelling
  • Difficulty walking
  • Stiffness
  • Stretched skin, which can become itchy and uncomfortable
  • Increased risk of infection in the swollen area
  • Scarring between layers of tissue
  • Decreased blood circulation
  • Decreased elasticity of arteries, veins, joints and muscles
  • Increased risk of skin ulcers

Treatment

Diuretics – These are drugs that raise the rate of urination, providing a means of forced diuresis. Diuresis is the increased production of urine by the kidney. There are several types of diuretics – they increase the excretion of water from the body in various different ways. Diuretics are not suitable if the patient is pregnant, or has chronic venous insufficiency (weakened valves in the veins of the legs).

Oxygen therapy – Oxygen delivered through the nose may improve poor vision caused by diabetic macular edema.

Antiangiogenesis therapy (controlling blood vessel growth) – The beneficial effects of anti-angiogenesis drugs in the treatment of the glioblastomas (deadly brain tumors) appear to result primarily from the reduction of edema.

Alternative Treatment

Pycnogenol was shown in both pre-clinical and clinical studies to strengthen capillary walls and prevent edema. Research has shown Pycnogenol actually seals the brittle capillaries and stops the outflow of blood into tissue which causes the swellings, edema and microbleedings. Coupled with its anti-inflammatory properties and patent for reducing platelet aggregation, these are the fundamental mechanisms of action behind Pycnogenol for edema.

B vitamins are essential for proper functioning of several metabolic processes in the body and for red blood cell formation. Deficiency of B vitamins, especially vitamins B-1 and B-2, can lead to edema and swelling.

Flavonoids – A new class of largely unstudied vitamins are referred to as flavonoids. They provide the intense flavors in food, such as capsacin in cayenne, and the pigments, such as anthocyanin in blueberries. High doses of flavonoids are demonstrated by controlled studies to effectively reduce edema and aid in many potential causes. The best sources are fresh herbs and spices combined with colored vegetables and fruits.

Thiamine – B1 deficiency is one known cause of fluid retention. The presence of other deficiency side effects suggest positive diagnosis. These include aching and stiff jointed in the swollen areas.

Pantothenic Acid – Vitamin B5 is directly linked to edema. One of the primary functions of this vitamin is the excretion of excess fluids. Deficiency also results in such symptoms as nausea, insomnia, and muscle cramping.

Vitamin B6 is another vitamin linked directly to heart and circulatory health. Failure of the heart and vessel walls to maintain the right amount of pressure results in fluid retention.

Magnesium is needed for nerve conduction and to provide muscular strength. Because it can close some calcium channels on the membranes of neurons, high levels of magnesium can reduce the activity of nerves in the nervous system. Loop diuretics and thiazide diuretics can promote magnesium loss in the kidneys. This is an unfortunate side effect involving another unwanted side effect of diuretics: potassium loss.

Alfalfa – Provides necessary minerals. Has chlorophyll which detoxifies the body.

Calcium – Replenishes minerals lost in the edema correction process.

Cornsilk – Combination of herbs and corn silk that have been known to reduce the formation of sediments in the kidneys and helps to reduce water retention.

Horse Chestnut – Horse Chestnut seed contain Aescin which has helped to effectively reduce post-surgical edema.

Dandelion leaf is itself a diuretic, so it should not be used while taking diuretic medications.

Grape seed extract for antioxidant support. Evidence suggests that using grape seed extract may improve chronic venous insufficiency, which causes swelling when blood pools in the legs.

Acupuncture – Acupuncture may improve fluid balance.

Massage– Therapeutic massage can help lymph nodes drain.

 

Reference –

 

https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/edema.html

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/159111.php

https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases_conditions/hic_Edema

http://www.cancer.net/navigating-cancer-care/side-effects/fluid-retention-or-edema

http://www.healthline.com/symptom/swollen-ankle

https://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/condition/edema

http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/524606

http://www.cvphysiology.com/Microcirculation/M010.htm

http://www.whattoexpect.com/pregnancy/symptoms-and-solutions/edema.aspx

http://www.drugs.com/health-guide/edema.html

http://www.msdmanuals.com/professional/cardiovascular-disorders/symptoms-of-cardiovascular-disorders/edema

http://www.fpnotebook.com/renal/Edema/Edm.htm

http://www.news-medical.net/health/What-is-Edema.aspx

http://www.strokecenter.org/professionals/brain-anatomy/cellular-injury-during-ischemia/edema-formation/