compression socks

Edema 101: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment With Compression Socks

Edema swelling is a condition 1.5% – 2% of the population has reported as having. The condition is best characterized by the swelling of the feet. If you have swollen feet without some other form of trauma, this may be a result of edema.

What is Edema?

Edema, at the root of the condition, is mere swelling that is a result of excess fluid that’s trapped in a person’s tissues. While many people associate edema with the feet, this condition can occur anywhere, including:

  • Ankles
  • Arms
  • Feet
  • Hands

Any part of the body can become swollen as a result of edema. Edema causes are plenty, and the condition can be something serious, or it can be a result of medication. The reasons that you may be suffering from swelling, or edema, include:

  • Medication
  • Pregnancy

Medications have a variety of side effects, and if you expect that your medication may be causing you to swell, don’t just stop taking your medication. The right choice is to contact your doctor immediately and discuss your swelling. A simple change in medication may be all that’s needed to stop your edema.

Medication (this list is not extensive) that is known to cause edema and swelling includes:

  • Estrogen or hormonal supplements
  • High blood pressure medications
  • Steroids
  • Some forms of diabetes medication
  • NSAIDs

Now, if you aren’t taking medication or aren’t pregnant, the condition may be caused by something more serious, such as:

  • Cirrhosis
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Kidney disease
  • Protein deficiency
  • Lymphatic systems issues
  • Damaged or weak veins in the legs

A number of underlying diseases may be at the root of edema, so if you’re experiencing swelling, you’ll want to visit a doctor that will diagnose the issue.

It’s important to know what signs and symptoms to look out for when dealing with edema.

You’ll also find that edema can be caused by non-medical or health issues. A person that has edema may have also:

  • Remained in a sitting or lying position for too long, allowing fluid in the body to pool in one area. This can happen in the feet or ankles where fluid trickles down and causes the area to swell.
  • Salty foods can also cause a person to retain water. Salt in moderation is perfectly fine, but when you eat too much salt, it will cause fluid to absorb into the salt and lead to swelling.
  • Women who are in their premenstrual cycle may have swelling, too.

Edema’s swelling happens when the small blood vessels in the body “leak.” What this leaking does is cause the fluid to release into tissues near the area of the leak. Fluid needs to go somewhere, so when this happens, the fluid builds up and makes the tissues swell.

Symptoms of Edema

Edema swelling is, obviously, swelling of some area of the body. Swelling is something that most people experience, but the condition is more pronounced with edema. A person that has edema will want to check for signs and symptoms that include:

  • An increase in abdominal size. Any swelling or increase in size of the abdominals should be seen as serious. You’ll want to visit a doctor immediately if your abdomen is swollen.
  • Skin appearance will also be impacted. The skin, in the impacted area, will look stretched and may have a shiny appearance, too.
  • Legs and arms are the most common areas of the body where swelling will occur. The tissue directly under the skin will be swollen or have a puffy appearance. This can be in any area, but the focus is on the arms and legs.
  • The area that is swollen will also have a dimple when pressed. Dimples occur when pressed naturally, but if the dimple lasts for several seconds after being pressed for several seconds, this is an indicator that the area is swollen.

Pulmonary edema is a serious condition, and if you suffer from any of the following symptoms, you may be suffering from this condition. Serious in nature, if you experience any of the following, visit the doctor immediately:

  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Shortness of breath

Persistent pain isn’t common with normal edema, so if you have persistent pain, especially in the legs, call the doctor. A blood clot may have formed in the area, which is very serious.

Treatment for Edema

Edema swelling can be corrected through a series of measures. The root cause of the condition first needs to be considered before going a step further. If you know the root cause, it’s time to take the appropriate steps to solve your issues.

Treatment for edema may be:

  • Change in medication. A simple medication change may be able to stop the swelling.
  • Diet changes. Salt-based diets are not good for swelling. Opt for a diet with lower salt content if you want to halt swelling.
  • If you sit for long periods of time, such as sitting at a desk, you may need to increase your activity levels. Going out for a walk every day or engaging in exercise may be enough to move the fluid through the body and prevent swelling.
  • Compression socks for edema are common and easily accessible. These socks will apply pressure to the legs and ankles, causing the fluid to move back up out of the legs. This is a go-to option for people with limited mobility, or people that are forced to remain in the same position for several hours.
  • If there has ever been a reason to treat yourself to a massage, now is the time. A massage can help move the fluid around in the body. Simply stroke the area that’s swollen, massaging towards the heart. The pressure from the massage will push the fluid around.
  • You’ll want to protect the area from further damage. If you suffered an injury, make sure that the area is cleaned and properly cared for to reduce additional issues. Feet are a key area where remaining clean and moisturized are important.

Mild edema, barring any health issues, will resolve on its own in most cases. You can choose to raise the affected area, such as the feet, to force the liquid to move up towards the heart. The goal of elevation is to force the liquid towards the heart so that the body can properly expel the liquid.

Drugs are also available, which will help the body get rid of the liquid through urination. These diuretics are very potent, and they will often be enough to force the liquid out of the body. But if the root cause of the swelling is more serious, this medication may not be a long-term solution.

Diseases or underlying issues need to be corrected for long-term management of the condition.

About the author

Tim Brewer

Tim is a professional caregiver who has helped hundreds of seniors gain back their freedom and independence. He has been actively helping the senior community for 20+ years.

View all posts