Edema Treatment Options, Symptoms and Causes
The medical term for fluid retention in the area around the body tissues and organs is known as edema. Edema treatment most often is determined by the underlying causes that lead to the condition. More commonly, it can be seen in the lower region of the legs or hands, in the abdomen or the chest. Pulmonary edema or edema in the chest area is the retention of fluid due to heart failure symptoms, which can be life threatening.
The symptoms of edema usually depend on the cause and may show up in the form of puffiness of the skin, which appears to become stretched and shiny. The symptoms may appear on the legs or the lower back especially with people who have been bedridden for a long time. The swelling may become worse at the end of the day or even after sitting or standing for a long time. In abdominal edema, the abdomen increases in size, while with chest edema the patient will experience shortness of breath. Generally, the swelling may appear to become worse at the end of the day. Edema may be the result of heart failure, cirrhosis or failure of the lymphatic system. lymphedema is the result of an injury to the lymphatic system or due to its dysfunction.
The causes for edema may be many, but the most common cause for a swelling in the legs is chronic venous disease. Deep vein thrombosis or a blood clot in the veins can also cause edema. Retention of extra fluid during pregnancy is also a form of edema, but this is usually not treated as it corrects itself. Similarly, edema during the monthly menstrual cycle in women is quite common, but does not require treatment. Some drugs used as medication for diabetes or hypertension may also cause edema as a side effect. A swelling around the eyes and the lower legs could be a symptom of kidney disease. Congestive heart failure induces the fluids to accumulate in the lungs causing a shortness of breath, one of the most serious conditions that may even cause death.
Understanding the cause of the edema is probably the best way to treat it. However, doctors will advise the reduction of sodium intake as the first choice of treatment. Very often, bed rest or elevation of the legs for about half an hour each day can take care of the swelling in the legs. For serious conditions like pulmonary edema, doctors prescribe diuretics that help to drain the excess sodium and water through the kidneys. Diuretics must be used carefully since an excess dosage may cause too much fluid to drain too quickly resulting in low blood pressure and kidney damage.
In case of edema of the legs, the doctor might prescribe compression stockings. However, proper fitting of the stocking is essential to reduce discomfort to the patient. The stocking should be able to provide the greatest amount of pressure at the ankle, which should gradually reduce as it goes upward. Often, a dietary change that reduces the salt intake is all that is necessary for edema treatment. Some herbs that have medicinal properties and usually serve as diuretics are also used to treat swellings. Dandelion leaf which works as a diuretic, horse chestnut or evening primrose oil are some of the herbal compounds used to treat edema.