There are many things that can go wrong with the human body. Some can be due to no reason at all. Others are as a result of disease and careless lifestyle. Some of these could be a secondary manifestation. But we must pay adequate attention to our body.
Oedema is a build-up of fluid in the body which causes the affected tissue to become swollen; pedal is the swelling of the areas around your ankles and feet.
The swelling can occur in one particular part of the body or may be more general, depending on the cause.
It is swelling or puffiness of parts of the body. Edema usually happens in the feet, ankles, and legs. It also can affect the face and hands. Pregnant women and older adults often get Oedema, but it can happen to anyone. If you have swelling in your legs, ankles, and feet not related to an injury, it could be Oedema. It can cause puffiness of your face and hands, too. You can have swelling in all of these areas at once or in only one area. It can cause you to feel uncomfortable. It can even restrict the range of motion in your ankles and wrists. Edema is swelling of both legs from a build-up of extra fluid.
The accumulation of fluid under the skin causes swelling, often in the lower legs and ankles (known as peripheral oedema).
As well as swelling or puffiness of the skin, oedema can also cause:
• skin discolouration
• areas of skin that temporarily hold the imprint of your finger when pressed (known as pitting oedema)
• aching, tender limbs
• stiff joints
• weight gain
It’s normal to have some swelling in your legs at the end of the day, particularly if you’ve been sitting or standing for long periods.
Oedema is often a symptom of an underlying health condition. It can occur as a result of the following conditions or treatments:
1. kidney disease
2. heart failure
3. chronic lung disease
4. thyroid disease
5. liver disease
7. medication, such as corticosteroids or medicine for high blood pressure (hypertension)
8. the contraceptive pill
9. Immobility and standing for long periods are the two most common causes of oedema in the legs.
Other possible causes include:
• a blood clot
• severe varicose veins
• a leg injury or leg surgery
• burns to the skin
• Prolonged standing or sitting, especially in hot weather, can cause excess fluid to accumulate in the feet, ankles and lower legs.
• Tiny valves inside the veins of the legs can become weakened, causing a common problem called venous insufficiency. This problem makes it more difficult for the veins to pump blood back to the heart, and leads to varicose veins and buildup of fluid.
• Severe chronic (long-term) lung diseases, including emphysema and chronic bronchitis, increase pressure in the blood vessels that lead from the heart to the lungs. This pressure backs up in the heart. The higher pressure causes swelling in the legs and feet.
• Congestive heart failure, a condition in which the heart can no longer pump efficiently, causes fluid buildup in the lungs and other parts of the body. Swelling is often most visible in the feet and ankles.
• Pregnancy can cause edema in the legs as the uterus puts pressure on the vena cava, a major blood vessel that returns blood to the heart from the legs. Fluid retention during pregnancy also can be caused by a more serious condition called preeclampsia.
• Low protein levels in the blood caused by malnutrition, kidney and liver disease can cause edema. The proteins help to hold salt and water inside the blood vessels so fluid does not leak out into the tissues. If a blood protein, called albumin, gets too low, fluid is retained and edema occurs, especially in the feet, ankles and lower legs.
In Idiopathic oedema is a term used to describe cases of oedema where a cause can’t be found.
Your doctor can tell whether you have edema by examining you. The skin over the swollen area may be stretched and shiny. Pushing gently on the swollen area for about 15 seconds will leave a dimple. If this happens, your doctor might want to do some tests to see what is causing your edema. If both legs are swollen, your doctor will ask about other symptoms and will examine you. A urine test will show if you are losing protein from the kidneys. Blood tests, a chest X-ray and an electrocardiogram (EKG) also may be done.
Prevention of Oedema
Can edema be prevented or avoided?
Depending on what it causing your edema, you may not be able to prevent it from happening. If your edema is caused by health problems, such as congestive heart failure, liver disease, or kidney disease, you will not be able to prevent it, only manage it. If your edema is caused by eating too much salt, you will be able to prevent it by eating less salt.
Oedema is often temporary and clears up by itself. For example, if you’ve been standing up for too long on a hot day, your ankles may swell up until you get the chance to put your feet up and rest.
If oedema doesn’t go away by itself, see your doctor. They’ll try and find out if there’s an underlying cause which needs to be treated. This could involve taking medication or following some advice, such as:
The only way to treat Oedema is to treat the condition that is causing it.
Your doctor might want you to take a medicine called a diuretic. This is also called a water pill. These pills help flush salt and extra fluid out of your body through your urine.
It is important to see your doctor if you have edema, especially if you are pregnant. If it is not treated, your skin may keep stretching. This can lead to other health problems. If you have edema and you start to have trouble breathing, call your doctor right away.
Treatment of edema focuses on correcting the cause of the fluid accumulation. A low-salt diet usually helps. You also should avoid drinking too much fluid. If you are not short of breath, elevate your legs above the level of your heart to keep swelling down. Your doctor might suggest that you take a low dose of a diuretic (water pill).
For swollen ankles and feet caused by pregnancy, elevate your legs and avoid lying on your back to help improve blood flow and decrease swelling.
If you have mild leg edema caused by venous insufficiency, elevate your legs periodically and wear support (compression) stockings. Sometimes surgery is needed to improve the flow of blood through the leg veins.
No matter what the cause of edema, any swollen area of the body should be protected from pressure, injury and extreme temperatures. The skin over swollen legs becomes more fragile over time. Cuts, scrapes and burns in areas that have edema take much longer to heal and are more likely to get infected.
• losing weight (if you’re overweight)
• taking regular exercise, such as walking, swimming or cycling
• raising your legs three to four times a day to improve your circulation
• avoiding standing for long periods of time
If an underlying condition is causing the fluid imbalance, it should clear up after the condition has been diagnosed and treated.
Call your doctor immediately if you have pain, redness or heat in a swollen area, an open sore, shortness of breath or swelling of only one limb.
Lymphoedema is swelling in the legs caused by a blockage in the lymphatic system, or an inherited condition.
The lymphatic system consists of a series of lymph nodes (glands) connected by a network of vessels (lymphatics), similar to blood vessels.
It can’t be cured, but it can be controlled using a number of treatments, including:
• compression stockings
• skin care
• lymphatic massage
Living with Oedema
The following are some things you can do at home to keep the swelling down:
1. Elevate your legs when you are sitting or lying down.
2. If you have edema of the legs, wear support stockings. You can buy these at most drugstores. Support stockings put pressure on your legs to keep fluid from collecting in your legs and ankles.
3. Do not sit or stand for long periods of time without moving around.
4. Follow your doctor’s advice about limiting how much salt you eat.