What Is Edema?

Edema is a buildup of fluid in the space between body cells. Edema can occur in all parts of the body, but is most clearly seen in the arms or legs. Edema occurs when fluid in the blood vessels comes out into the surrounding tissue. The liquid then builds up so that the body's tissues become swollen. Mild edema is not dangerous, but it can also indicate a more serious condition, such as heart failure, liver, kidney and brain disorders. Therefore the examination to the doctor during edema is very important to find out the cause. Handling will be carried out based on the cause.

Symptoms of Edema
Symptoms that appear depend on the condition and location of the swollen tissue. Mild edema due to inflammation can cause no symptoms. Symptoms that appear and are felt by the sufferer are:
  • The limbs, such as the arms or legs, become swollen.
  • The edema area becomes tight and shiny.
  • If the skin in the edema area is pressed, a hole like a dimple appears for a few seconds.
  • Enlarged stomach size.
  • Shortness of breath and cough if edema occurs in the lungs.
  • It is difficult to walk because the legs feel heavier due to swelling.
  • Severe foot edema can interfere with blood flow, causing ulcers on the skin.

Causes of Edema
Edema occurs when fluid in the blood vessels comes out to the surrounding tissue, so that fluid builds up and becomes swollen. Mild edema is usually caused by standing or sitting too long, consuming too many foods with high salt levels, or before menstruation and during pregnancy for women.

Swollen tissue due to fluid buildup can also occur due to serious illness, including:
  • Lack of albumin protein. Proteins, including albumin, play a role in keeping fluids in the blood vessels. Lack of protein in the blood can cause fluid in the blood vessels to come out and accumulate, causing edema. Examples of this are nephrotic syndrome .
  • Allergic reactions. Edema occurs because of the body's response to allergens, where fluid in the blood vessels comes out into the area.
  • Damage to veins in the legs. This condition occurs in chronic venous insufficiency which causes the vein veins to be disrupted, so that fluid in the bloodstream builds up in the blood vessels of the legs and out into the surrounding tissue.
  • Heart failure. When the heart begins to fail, one or both chambers of the organ begin to lose the ability to pump blood effectively, so that the fluid will accumulate slowly and cause edema in the limbs, lungs or stomach.
  • Kidney illness. Edema can arise because fluid cannot be removed through the kidneys. Edema can occur in the legs and around the eyes.
  • Disorders of the brain. Head injuries, brain tumors, brain infections, or fluid blockages in the brain can cause brain edema.
  • Burns. Heavy burns also cause leakage of fluid to tissues throughout the body.
  • As with burns, severe infections can also cause fluid leakage.
  • Disorders of the lymph flow system. The lymph flow system serves to clean excess fluid from the tissue. Damage to this system can cause fluid to accumulate.
  • Drug side effects. Some types of drugs can cause side effects such as edema. Examples are antihypertensive drugs, corticosteroids, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), estrogen hormones, and diabetes medications.
In some cases, edema occurs without a clear cause (idiopathic edema). This kind of edema occurs in many women, and can get worse as you age.

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Edema Diagnosis
Doctors can suspect a patient has edema based on symptoms. Before carrying out the examination, the doctor needs to know in advance the medical history, including the medicines consumed by the patient. This information is very important to find out the cause of edema. Furthermore, a physical examination can be performed, including checking blood pressure, swollen areas, and the condition of the liver, kidneys, and heart.

To ascertain the cause of edema, the following tests can be carried out, including:
  • Urine test or urinalysis.
  • Blood test, to check kidney function, liver, or albumin levels.
  • Scanning with ultrasound, MRI, and echocardiography.

Treatment of Edema
Treatment is carried out according to the cause of edema. A mild case will recover by itself. Some efforts can be made to reduce the symptoms of edema, namely:
  • Lose weight if you have excess weight. Many people with edema have excess weight. By gradually losing weight, the condition of edema can improve.
  • Avoid sitting or standing position for too long.
  • Prop your feet while lying down.
  • Exercise regularly, such as walking or swimming.
  • Reducing salt intake in food. Salt can increase fluid buildup and worsen the condition of edema.
  • Use special stockings to prevent the legs from getting swollen.
For more severe edema, treatment is done with medication. Allergic edema, patients can take hypo-allergenic drugs to treat swollen limbs. While edema due to damage to blood vessels due to blood clots, can be overcome with blood thinning drugs. While limb edema is associated with heart failure or liver disease, doctors give diuretic drugs to increase the frequency of urination. Thus, fluid can return to flow in the blood vessels

If edema occurs because of side effects of drug consumption, the doctor can adjust the administration of the drug so that it does not cause edema in the patient. In addition to reducing edema, treatment of the underlying disease is the main treatment, rather edema does not continue to form.

Complications of Edema
If not treated, edema can cause complications as follows:
  • Difficult to walk.
  • The pain gets worse.
  • The skin gets tighter, so it becomes itchy and uncomfortable.
  • There are scarring between the layers of tissue.
  • The risk of open sores or skin ulcers increases.
  • The elasticity of blood vessels, joints and muscles decreases.

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