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Edema Definition

Edema is defined as a medical condition caused by the accumulation of an excessive amount of watery fluid in the body's cavities or tissues.

What is Edema?

A build-up of fluid in body tissue is referred to as edema, usually known as -oedema," and also goes by fluid retention, dropsy, hydropsy, and swelling. Usually, the arms or legs are affected. The feeling of tight skin, heaviness in the area, and stiff joints are possible symptoms. Although it typically affects the skin, it can also harm other organs like the brain and lungs.

Edema can be caused by medications and pregnancy. Congestive heart failure, renal illness, venous insufficiency, or liver cirrhosis are a few diseases that might cause it. Edema is frequently treated with compression clothing and salt restriction in the diet. A condition must also be treated when it results in edema.

Edema Definition

Types of Edema Conditions

Edoema comes in a variety of forms. Each one may be a sign of a variety of further medical issues.

Edema types consist of:

Peripheral edema: This condition impacts the hands, arms, legs, feet, and ankles. Swelling, puffiness, and trouble moving particular body parts are among the symptoms.

Pulmonary edema: Breathing becomes challenging due to pulmonary edema, which develops when extra fluid builds up in the lungs. Congestive cardiac failure or a recent lung damage may cause this. It is a dangerous disorder that can cause a medical emergency, respiratory failure, and even death.

Cerebral edema: The brain experiences cerebral edema. There are many different causes for it, several of which have the potential to be fatal. Among the signs include:

  • Headache
  • Stiffness in the neck
  • Altered awareness
  • Mental condition due to complete partial eyesight loss
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting dizziness

Macular edema: A significant consequence of diabetic retinopathy is macular edema. The area of the human eye that allows for detailed, center vision-the macula-swells. The person may observe modifications to their colour perception and central vision.

Pitting edema: This form of edema, which can happen in peripheral edema, is marked by pressure on the skin that results in an indentation or pit.

Periorbital edema: It is the medical term for swelling and inflammation around the eye or eyeballs. The fluid build-up is what causes the puffiness, which is typically momentary.

Although there are additional places where edema can occur, the above-mentioned ones are the most typical. Edoema may be a sign of a number of dangerous medical disorders. If someone is worried about any swelling, it's crucial for them to consult a doctor.

Edema Causes

1. Heart

The heart's ability to pump blood should aid in maintaining proper blood vessel pressure. However, the pressure shifts can result in severe water retention if the heart starts to fail, a disease referred to as congestive heart failure. Water also builds up in the respiratory tract, where it creates a chronic cough, but it is most noticeable in the legs, feet, and ankles with this illness. Diuretics are typically used to treat this illness because, without them, the water retention could impair breathing and put additional strain on the heart.

2. Kidneys

Kidney failure, in which the kidneys are unable to extract fluid from the circulation and convert it to urine, is another factor in severe water retention. Inflammation is frequently the first sign of kidney disease, as is the case with conditions like lupus or nephrotic syndrome. Legs and ankle swelling are the most common signs of this sort of water retention.

3. Liver

A prominent cause of edema in the limbs and abdomen is liver cirrhosis or liver scarring.

4. Protein

Protein draws water and is crucial for maintaining the proper balance of water. The blood may not have enough protein in instances of severe protein deficit to draw water from the tissue gaps back into the capillaries. Due to this, malnutrition frequently manifests as an expanded abdomen. Due to the diet's lack of protein, the abdomen is enlarged from edema or water retention. Protein from the blood can leak out of capillary walls that are excessively porous and settle in the gaps between tissues. The water will then be continuously drawn in from the blood and build up in the tissue gaps like a magnet.

5. Other Causes

Late pregnancy frequently results in swollen ankles, feet, and legs. The uterus's pressure on the large veins in the pelvis contributes to the issue. It normally goes away after the baby is delivered and is usually nothing to worry about, but it should always be reported to a doctor.

Another common cause for the retention of water in the legs is inactivity. The leg veins can more effectively fight gravity while supplying blood to the heart's chambers with exercise. Too much fluid may be forced out of the leg capillary and into the tissue spaces if blood flows too slowly and begins to stagnate in the leg veins. Capillaries may rupture, creating minute blood stains beneath the skin. Varicose veins are an enlargement, discomfort, and dilation of the veins themselves. In addition to helping the blood continue to flow through the veins, muscle activity helps the lymphatic system perform its "overflow" job. Long-distance travel, protracted bed rest, immobility brought on by a handicap, etc., are all potential reasons for water retention. Exercises as simple as wiggling your toes and turning your ankles will assist in lessening it.

Water retention is a common side effect of some drugs. These include beta-blockers, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, and estrogens, including those used in replacement therapy for hormones or the combined oral contraceptive pill.

Edema Definition

Signs and Symptoms

Areas Affected

When an organ is inflamed, such as with tendinitis or pancreatitis, an edema will develop there. Edema can occur in some organs due to tissue-specific processes. Some instances of edema in particular organs:

  • The build-up of extracellular fluid in the brain is known as cerebral edema. It can happen under toxic or aberrant metabolic settings, such as systemic lupus or low oxygen levels at high elevations. It results in somnolence or unconsciousness, which leads to brain herniation & death.
  • Extracellular fluid builds up in the legs in peripheral edema, also known as dependent edema of the legs. Hypervolemia or continuing in a seated or standing position for an extended amount of time might cause this in otherwise healthy individuals. It can happen as a result of a reduced return of blood to the core brought on by pulmonary hypertension or congestive heart failure. Congestion in the lymphatic or venous veins draining the lower extremity, can also happen in patients with elevated hydrostatic venous pressure or reduced oncotic venous pressure. Pedal edema can be brought on by some medications (amlodipine, for instance).
  • When the flow of blood through the pulmonary veins is prevented, pulmonary edema develops. This is typically brought on by the heart's left ventricle failing. It can also happen when suffering from altitude sickness or after inhaling harmful chemicals. Breathlessness is a symptom of pulmonary edema. When liquid also builds up in the pleural cavity, pleural effusions may happen.
  • In addition, edema in the cornea of the eye may be observed in cases of glaucoma, acute conjunctivitis, keratitis, or following surgery. Those who are affected might notice colourful haloes surrounding bright lights.
  • Periorbital edema, sometimes known as puffy eyes, is an edema that surrounds the eyes. The swelling of the periorbital tissues is most pronounced right after awakening, possibly as a result of the fluid's gravitational redistribution in the horizontal position.
  • Insect bites, bug bites, bee stings (wheal and flare), & skin contact with certain plants, such as poison ivy or western poison oak, are common causes of cutaneous edema as contact dermatitis.
  • Myxoedema is a different type of cutaneous edema brought on by an enlarged connective tissue deposit. Edoema is brought on by a tissue's increased propensity to retain water in its extracellular space, which is present in myxoedema and a number of other more uncommon disorders. In myxoedema, this is caused by a rise in hydrophilic carbohydrate-rich compounds deposited in the tissue matrix, most likely hyaluronan. Elderly people who sit in armchairs at home or on planes tend to develop edema more easily in dependent areas, while the reason for this is unclear. In part via changing the water content of tissues, estrogens modify body weight. Due to alterations in the tissue's hydrophilicity or failure of the terminal lymphatic capillaries' 'wicking' function, there may be a number of poorly understood circumstances in which the transfer of water from the tissue matrix to lymphatics is hampered.
  • Impairment of the lymphatic system leads to inappropriate evacuation of interstitial fluid in lymphedema. This may be caused by obstruction, such as pressure from a tumour or enlarged lymph nodes, radiotherapy-induced lymph channel damage, or infection (such as elephantiasis) infiltration of the lymphatics. Most obviously, in disorders like multiple sclerosis or paraplegia, it is caused most frequently by the lack of muscles to contract due to immobility. According to some theories, the edema that some people experience after taking aspirin-similar cyclo-oxygenase inhibitors like ibuprofen or indomethacin results from a reduction of lymph heart activity.


Six different factors can influence Edoema formation:

  • A rise in hydrostatic pressure;
  • A fall in blood vessel colloidal or just oncotic pressure;
  • A rise in tissue particles or oncotic pressure;
  • A rise in blood vessel wall permeation (as in inflammation);
  • A blockage of lymphatic fluid clearance;
  • and alterations in the water-retention capabilities of the tissues on their own.

Increased hydrostatic pressure frequently indicates salt and water retention by the kidneys. The Starling equation's forces control how much interstitial fluid is produced. Water tends to leak into the tissue due to hydrostatic pressure in blood vessels. As a result, the protein content in blood plasma & tissues differs. Since there is a higher concentration of protein in plasma, this has the effect of drawing water from the tissue back into the blood vessels due to colloidal or oncotic pressure. According to Starling's equation, for a given force imbalance, the rate of fluid leakage is governed by the disparity between the two forces as well as by the permeability of the exterior of the vessel to the water. Capillaries and post-capillary venules, which contain a membrane with a semi-permeable wall that enables water to enter more freely than protein, are where the majority of water leakage occurs. The permeability to water increases first when the spaces between the vessel wall's cells widen. Still, as the spaces get bigger, the permeability towards proteins also rises along with a decline in the reflection coefficient.

Edoema may develop as a result of modifications to the parameters in Starling's equation, which may result in changes to the blood vessel's oncotic pressure, hydrostatic pressure, or permeability. The latter produces two results. It improves water flow and lessens the colloidal/oncotic fluid pressure differential by facilitating easier protein exit from the vessel.

The lymphatic system, a different system of blood vessels, functions as an "overflow" and is capable of returning a significant amount of extra fluid to the bloodstream. However, the lymphatic system can become overloaded. If there is simply an excess of fluid or if the lymphatic system ends up clogged, the fluid continues to stay in the tissues and cause swelling in the abdomen, legs, ankles, and feet, as well as in other parts of the body.

Edema Definition


Pitting edema and non-pitting edema are two different types of edema. Pitting edema occurs when pressure is exerted on a tiny area and released, leaving an indentation behind. The more typical variety of peripheral pitting edema is brought on by water retention. It can be brought on by local illnesses such as varicose veins, thrombus formation insect bites, rashes, systemic diseases, pregnancies in some women, and sometimes as a side effect of heart failure. When the indentation disappears, non-pitting edema is seen. It is connected to edema like myxoedema, lipoedema, and lymphedema.


Edoema treatment differs depending on the underlying cause, mainly if the underlying reason is a medical problem. For instance:

  • Your healthcare professional will advise quitting smoking if you smoke and you have a lung condition that results in edema, which includes emphysema or chronic bronchitis.
  • Your doctor will advise lifestyle adjustments for treating your diagnosis if edema is a complication of persistent heart failure while keeping an eye on your weight, fluid intake, and salt intake. Reducing your alcohol consumption may be advised by your doctor.
  • Your doctor may decide to discontinue or reduce the amount of the medication you're taking if it causes edema in order to reduce the swelling. If your doctor has not instructed you to stop taking your medicine, do not.

Medications to Cure Edema

You can take a few actions to prevent fluid from accumulating in your body in addition to curing the root cause of edema:

  • Put a pillow between your legs, whether you are seated or lying down, to keep them raised above the surface of your heart.
  • Do not stand or sit still for extended periods of time, and avoid taking quick strolls.
  • To prevent fluids from accumulating in certain areas of your body, wear compression sleeves, stockings, or socks. For those with chronic edema who require adjustable footwear to accommodate swelling, edema shoes are available.
  • You should consume less salt overall.
  • Take drugs as prescribed by your doctor. You can be prescribed a diuretic (often known as a "water pill") by your doctor to assist your body eliminate extra fluid.

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