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Edema Management

Edema is swelling that can range from mild to severe. Edema can lead to trouble walking and even difficulty taking a breath. Sometimes symptoms are so severe that people limit or stop their daily activities.  Providers at MaineHealth can help get edema under control and improve a patient’s overall health.

What is edema?

Edema is a collection of fluid under the skin, which is most likely to be found in the lower legs, ankles and feet. It is possible to see edema in other parts of the body, like the hands or stomach. Edema occurs when fluid leaks from small blood vessels. The fluid goes into nearby tissues, which swell.

What are edema symptoms?

Edema appears as swelling under the skin on parts of your body. Patients also may notice the following:

  • Tight and shiny skin over the swollen area

  • Puffy skin

  • Trouble walking

  • Trouble breathing or cough

What causes edema?

  • High-salt diet

  • Premenstrual signs and symptoms

  • Pregnancy

  • Immobility

  • Spending too much time sitting or standing

  • Being overweight

  • Blood clots

  • Low albumin (blood proteins)

  • Tumor

  • Heart disease, liver disease, kidney disease

Sometimes when a patient has an acute medical problem, such as an allergic reaction or infection, there is edema.  It is important to get medical care for the underlying problem.

How is edema treated?

If your edema is mild, your body will balance the fluid out on its own. If your edema is more serious, your doctor may prescribe you to go on a diuretic. A diuretic is a medication that helps to relieve excess fluid from your body by making you urinate more frequently. If your edema persists, your provider will look for the causes of edema. This could mean that your provider changes your medication instructions, changes your medication prescriptions, or treats a more serious medical problem.

Home treatment

  • Get plenty of movement to increase circulation in your body

  • Frequently raise the affected area of your body, so that it is above the level of your heart

  • Massage the area affected by edema

  • Use bandages or compression socks to keep pressure on the edema

  • Consume less salt

  • Keep the swollen area clean, dry, and moisturized