6 Causes of Edema

6 Causes of EdemaAre your feet or legs swollen? The swelling might be caused by something as simple as standing for too long, or as serious as a health condition that requires emergency medical attention.

The medical term for swelling caused by fluid retention is edema. Other symptoms of edema include:

  1. Discomfort in the swollen area
  2. Reduced mobility of the swollen area
  3. Shiny, stretched skin over the swollen area
  4. Skin that does not quickly return to normal after it has been pressed (see picture)

Edema can be a side effect of certain medications, including blood pressure medication, steroids, antidepressants, NSAIDs, and certain diabetes medications.

The following 6 medical conditions can also cause edema:

1. Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)

DVTs are blood clots which occur deep in the legs. This type of clot is serious since it can either cause a blockage in a vein, or a clot might break loose and cause a blockage in the heart or lungs.

Suspect a DVT if:
the swelling is only in one leg, and is accompanied by pain, a low-grade fever, and color change in the affected area. A DVT is a medical emergency.

2. Venous Insufficiency

Venous insufficiency refers to the failure of valves in the veins of the legs to prevent blood from backing up.

Suspect venous insufficiency if:
the swelling is accompanied by aching, flaking skin, the appearance of varicose veins, or skin ulcers.

Venous insufficiency is a serious condition, but not a medical emergency. If you suspect venous insufficiency, you should see your doctor as soon as possible.

3. Right-side Heart Failure

If the right side of the heart is damaged, it is unable to pump enough blood to the body. This can result in retention of salts and water.

Suspect heart failure if:
the swelling is accompanied by shortness of breath, fatigue, weakness, a rapid heartbeat, coughing, wheezing, abdominal swelling, general fluid retention, or difficulty concentrating.

If you suspect your edema is caused by heart failure, you should seek immediate medical attention.

4. Liver Disease

Liver Disease can cause edema through inhibiting production of albumin, a protein that prevents blood from leaking out of the blood vessels.

Suspect liver disease if:
the swelling is accompanied by jaundice, dark urine, bruising, fatigue, or tenderness in the abdomen.

Liver disease is serious, but not a medical emergency. If you suspect your edema is caused by liver disease, you should see your doctor as soon as possible.

5. Kidney Disease

The kidneys help flush fluid out of the body, and one of the signs of kidney disease is edema.

Suspect kidney disease if:
the swelling is accompanied by in frequent urination, shortness of breath, discomfort in the chest, nausea, confusion, and in severe cases: seizures or lapsing into a coma.

With the exception of frequent urination, many of these symptoms are similar to those of a heart attack, or indicate an advanced stage of kidney failure. Anyone experiencing these serious symptoms should seek medical attention immediately.

6. Lymphedema

Lymphedema is edema caused by the gathering of lymphatic fluid in the tissues.

Lymphedema often occurs in people who have undergone radiation therapy, removal of one or more lymph nodes, or treatment for cancer.

A person with lymphedema should see their doctor as soon as possible.

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