Edema previously known as hydropsy is a condition where the soft tissue is swollen because of the accumulation of interstitial fluid. Abnormal accumulation of the interstitial fluid presents a noticeable swollen appearance in various areas of the body. The fluid moves from the vascular region to the interstitial region because of preexisting conditions. The distribution of edema in different areas of the body is an effective diagnostic factor to identify various underlying conditions. Edema is broadly classified in to two categories, localized and generalized respectively.
Localized edema is predominantly caused because of the obstruction caused in the lymphatic or venous system. In some cases these edemas can be fatal as they induce conditions such as deep vein thrombosis and allergic reactions like angioedema. Angioedema is also known as non-pitting edema. Localized edema can also occur due to neoplasm and also because of inflammation associated with infections.
Generalized edema is caused because of impaired cardiac or renal function. Fluid retention and increase in the concentration of sodium may result in the swelling of various body parts. This type of edema can also occur because prolonged sitting or standing in one position. The sodium retention associated with renal impairment is generally caused because of vasoconstriction. In conditions such as cirrhosis of the liver, the edema is generally noticed in the peritoneal region which is referred to as ascites. Edema associated with cardiac impairment is usually associated with the right side of the heart and the left side impairment leads to pulmonary edema. Shortness of breath is often associated with edema.
Clinical manifestations and causes associated with edema
Edema (oedema) occurs because of various preexisting health conditions. Any variation in the vital parameters of the body such as fluid imbalance, venous pressure fluctuations and lymphatic impairments lead to edema. Protein insufficiency and hepatic disease increases the occurrence of edema. Many women experience episodes of edema during pregnancy. This happens because of increased fluid distribution to nourish the developing child and mother at the same time. Some forms of edema also occur because of increased capillary permeability. Conditions such as vasculitis and post-anoxic encephalopathy cause increased capillary permeability.
Pitting edema is also one if the important types of edema which occurs in some people who wear tight outfits. The regions covered by the tight clothing generally swells up and after a certain period of time, the tissue returns to the normal appearance. In addition to the conditions mentioned, edema is also caused because of certain drugs. Drugs which block the calcium channels, corticosteroids, birth control pills and antidepressants predominantly induce the onset of edema.
Edema requires medical attention as it may lead to many other complications. The complications associated with edema are swelling with pain, stretched skin with dryness, formation of scarred tissue, and risk of skin ulcers and decreased elasticity of the arteries, veins and muscles.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Edema
Diagnosis of edema is done by identifying the underlying causes associated with it. Complete biochemical analysis is done to identify the factors such as hyperthyroidism, protein insufficiency and fluid electrolyte ratios. Pregnant women are generally advised to avoid standing for prolonged period of time especially during the last trimester of their pregnancy. Patients suffering from consistent edemas are advised to keep in an elevated position with some support. Loose and comfortable clothing is also recommended as it helps in the uniform blood circulation.
Treatment for edema includes dietary restriction of sodium flowed by the administration of diuretics. Diuretics are predominantly used in conditions such as lymphedema, renal disease and obstruction in the venous flow. Since edema is also associated with weight loss, the administration of diuretics has to be reduced once the patient reaches optimal weight.
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Bibliography / Reference
Collection of Pages - Last revised Date: January 27, 2023