What are the Symptoms of Edema?

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  • Written By: Jason C. Chavis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 13 May 2020
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Edema is a condition in which a large amount of fluid accumulates beneath a person's skin. This causes a visibly puffy appearance. It occurs most frequently in a limb, usually a leg, however, it can happen on any part of the body. People suffering from this condition can also experience damage to a variety of internal organs.

Due to the massive fluid buildup caused by edema, the kidneys, lungs and heart become overworked. While the body attempts to correct the situation naturally, the respiratory system becomes overtaxed resulting in wheezing, a shortness of breath and chest pain. People with edema also suffer from rapid weight gain as the liquid accumulates. Some people gain over five pounds per day. This additional weight gain causes the heart to beat rapidly and the lack of urination damages the kidneys.

One of the worst problems associated with the disease is when it occurs to a victim's face. This appears as puffiness and swelling, making the skin tender to the touch. A person's eyes can be forced shut and the general functions of the face become affected.

A related problem, known as ascites, can also occur from the disease. This is when an abnormal amount of fluid accumulates in the stomach and abdomen. This results in a person feeling full at all times, causing weight loss. As the stomach enlarges, the skin stretches and begins to look shiny. Veins can also be seen through the stretched skin.

According to figures provided by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2000, approximately 4.4 million people suffer from edema each year. This is a little under two percent of the population. Other countries also report a number of cases of the disease. It is highly prevalent in developing nations such as those in the Middle East and Asia. India suffers from the largest volume of patients, over 17 million as of 2009 statistics.

Edema is caused by a number of different conditions. The major event that causes the disorder is cancer. As the disease spreads, it can change the basic functions of certain metabolic actions in the body. This stimulates the retention of fluid. Poor nutrition caused by a lack of protein will also cause fluid to collect. Other factors, such as basic damage to lymphatic vessels caused by trauma or surgery, can also result in the accumulation of fluid.

A number of basic treatments exist to help relieve the body of the excess fluid. The most common fixes include diuretics made from ammonium chloride and basic beverages with caffeine. For more severe cases, physicians prescribe advanced water pills and a salt-restrictive diet. Like all disorders, the best treatment for edema is found in a proper diet and exercise. This helps regulate the body's metabolism and relieves water retention through sweat and urination.


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