Edema: symptoms, causes, diagnosis and treatment.


Edema is the medical term used to describe edema associated with trauma, swelling, or fluid overload. It can affect a small area, a large area, or even the entire body. Edema is the result of fluid entering the tissues from small blood vessels. When fluid builds up, the tissue swells.

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There are different types of edema, and each carries different health risks. The symptoms of each type of edema depend on the type, location, and cause.


Peripheral edema is the most common type of edema and affects the feet, ankles, legs, arms, wrists, and hands. Symptoms generally include increased swelling, swelling, muscle and joint pain, and difficulty moving. Skin symptoms include pain, swelling, tightness, and a shiny, stretchy appearance.

Additional symptoms of peripheral edema include:

  • Dimpled skin when pressed for a few seconds (pitting)
  • Swelling of the ankles, hands and / or face.
  • Joint pain and stiffness.
  • Full veins of the arm and neck.


Macular edema is inflammation of the macula, the part of the eye responsible for detailed, centralized vision. This type of edema will alter central vision and color perception. Macular edema is often a complication of diabetic retinopathy , an eye disease that affects people with diabetes .

At first, macular edema does not cause symptoms. Symptoms indicate leaky blood vessels. Symptoms include blurred and wavy central vision, discolored colors, and difficulty reading any type of writing and viewing information on a computer screen. If left untreated, macular edema will eventually lead to vision loss.


Pulmonary edema causes excess fluid to build up in the heart and / or lungs, causing breathing problems. This is often caused by congestive heart failure or lung injury. Pulmonary edema is a very serious medical condition that requires urgent medical attention. If left untreated, it can lead to respiratory failure and / or death.

Symptoms of pulmonary edema include shortness of breath, shortness of breath (especially when lying down), shortness of breath upon waking, chest pain, wheezing, excessive sweating, general weakness and body fatigue, and coughing up blood.


Cerebral edema occurs in the brain for a number of reasons, many of which are life threatening. Symptoms of cerebral edema include headache, neck pain and / or stiffness, vision loss (partial or complete), dizziness, nausea, and vomiting.

Symptoms of severe brain edema can include confusion, mood / mental status changes, memory loss, difficulty speaking and finding the right words, changes in consciousness, especially unconsciousness, physical weakness, urinary incontinence, and seizures.

Be sure to make an appointment with your doctor if you have skin swelling, stretching, or ulceration.

Seek immediate medical attention for shortness of breath, shortness of breath, chest pain, confusion, changes in mental health, and changes in consciousness.


There are many causes of edema. The causes depend on the type of edema.


Peripheral edema can result from sitting for too long or standing in one place. The fluid will get into the legs and feet and cause swelling. Also, other reasons include medications (such as blood pressure medications and pain relievers), too much salt in a person's diet, and low levels of protein in the blood (often due to malnutrition).

Other causes of peripheral edema include:

  • Venous insufficiency is a condition that causes swelling when the valves in the legs become weak. This makes it difficult for blood to flow to the heart through the veins. It also leads to varicose veins and fluid in the legs. Venous insufficiency affects 30% of the population.
  • Certain medical conditions, such as conditions of the lungs, liver, kidneys, or thyroid gland, in which salt retention can occur.
  • Joints that swell and retain fluid due to an arthritic condition.
  • Pregnancy, as it puts pressure on the blood vessels in the lower body.


There are many different conditions and risk factors that can lead to macular edema, including age-related eye conditions such as macular degeneration and cataracts , which can cause macular edema, leading to fluid leakage from the blood vessels into the retina. Certain medications can also cause macular edema.

For example, hydroxychloroquine (an antimalarial drug) and tamoxifen (a breast cancer treatment) are two drugs that can affect the retina, but there are many others. It is recommended that you check with your doctor if any medications you are taking may affect the health of your eyes, especially if you have other risk factors.

Other causes of macular edema include:

  • Hereditary and Genetic Disorders: Retinoschisis or retinitis pigmentosa are genetic conditions that cause problems in the retina, leading to changes and loss of central and peripheral (side) vision.
  • Inflammatory eye conditions: For example, uveitis , a condition that causes persistent eye inflammation, can cause macular edema.
  • Eye tumors and eye lesions: Eye tumors (both benign and malignant) and eye lesions can lead to macular edema.
  • Diabetes: High sugar levels can damage the blood vessels that eventually leak into the macula.


Pulmonary edema is often caused by heart problems, usually in the left ventricle (one of the chambers) of the heart. Poor pumping of the left ventricle results in fluid build-up. Narrow arteries, heart valve problems, muscle damage, and high blood pressure can also weaken the left ventricle.

Respiratory problems, blood clots, inhalation of toxins, and lung injury can also lead to pulmonary edema.


Several factors can lead to brain edema, the most common being head injuries, strokes, infections, both viral and bacterial, and brain tumors. Other causes include high altitude, drug use, carbon monoxide poisoning, and bites from poisonous animals (including reptiles).


The diagnosis of peripheral edema involves a simple physical examination. With peripheral edema, the skin in the inflamed area is usually stretched and shiny. Gently press on the swollen area for about 15 seconds to dimple.

Other types of edema require a medical history, a history of symptoms, and additional tests (such as blood tests and imaging) so that the healthcare provider can determine if someone has edema, the type of edema, and treatment options.

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The only way to cure swelling is to eliminate its cause.


Healthcare providers may prescribe diuretics (water tablets) to help remove salt and excess fluid from the body with the production of urine for peripheral edema.

To reduce swelling at home if you have lower body swelling, try elevating your legs while sitting or lying down.

Wearing support stockings can put pressure on the legs to reduce fluid build-up in the legs and ankles. Avoid standing or sitting for long periods. Finally, reduce the amount of salt in your diet.


Treatment of macular edema depends on the severity and health of the patient. Treatment may include ophthalmic steroids and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory eye drops, ophthalmic steroid injections, oral anti-inflammatory medications, and / or surgery to remove excess fluid from the eye.

Most people will experience a significant improvement in their vision after treatment.


Pulmonary edema can be a life-threatening condition. Therefore, it requires timely treatment. Oxygen therapy is usually the first treatment used by healthcare professionals to treat symptoms, which may include a breathing tube or oxygen delivered through an oxygen mask.

Depending on the cause of the pulmonary edema, additional treatments may be prescribed, including medications to reduce fluid in the heart and lungs, to lower blood pressure and pulse control, to relieve pressure on the heart, and / or to relieve anxiety and lack of blood. breath.


Treatment of brain edema must be immediate, as it is a life-threatening condition.

It is important to reduce swelling as soon as possible and restore blood and oxygen flow to the brain.

Treatment options include medications to reduce swelling and blood clots. Additional treatment may include:

  • osmotherapy, or the use of osmotically active substances (substances that reduce fluid) to move excess fluid in the brain.
  • hyperventilate to induce more exhalation and reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the bloodstream. Controlling carbon dioxide will reduce blood flow, blood pressure, and swelling.
  • hypothermia, in which the body temperature drops to reduce brain swelling.
  • Ventriculostomy is a surgical procedure in which a small incision is made in the skull to drain fluid from the brain.
  • surgery in which part of the skull is removed to relieve pressure and swelling in the brain.


Untreated swelling can lead to complications. Peripheral edema includes stiffness and difficulty walking, stretching and itching of the skin, scarring between layers of tissue, and skin ulcers .

Among the complications of pulmonary edema is respiratory failure. A heart attack or stroke is the risk of developing pulmonary and brain edema.

Brain edema can also lead to neurological problems, and vision loss can be the result of macular edema. Furthermore, in addition to the complications associated with certain types of edema, there are overlapping conditions that can result from each type of edema.

Possible complications of edema.

  • Loss of elasticity in joints, veins and arteries.
  • Painful swelling
  • Infection
  • Bad circulation
  • In severe cases, death is associated with untreated complications.

The best way to prevent complications is to treat the underlying conditions appropriately to prevent them from getting worse.

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The swelling can be due to a serious medical condition or something simple. Regardless of the cause, treatment can help relieve swelling and prevent complications. It is recommended that you consult a doctor if you are unsure of the cause of the swelling or if there are symptoms other than mild swelling and fluid build-up, especially if breathing, consciousness, or injury has occurred.

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