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What are the Different Types of Edema Treatments?

M.C. Huguelet
Updated May 17, 2024
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Edema is a medical term referring to swelling caused by fluid which has built up within the body’s tissues. Left untreated, edema can become extremely uncomfortable, and can also lead to mobility difficulties, scar tissue, skin ulcers, and a heightened risk of infection. Luckily, there are a number of different edema treatments. If edema is caused by an underlying condition, then treatment usually involves addressing that underlying condition. In cases where edema is not caused by another condition, treatment may include medication, dietary changes, physical activity, massage, elevation of affected body parts, and compression therapy.

Sometimes, edema may be a symptom of a more serious underlying illness. Conditions which can cause edema include heart or kidney failure, cirrhosis of the liver, and disorders of the circulatory and lymphatic systems. When an underlying condition is present, the most effective edema treatments usually involve addressing that underlying condition.

In many cases, edema is not a symptom of some other condition, but is rather a primary condition in itself. This type of edema often occurs when the natural flow of fluids through the body becomes obstructed. Such an obstruction may be caused simply by sitting in one position for an extended period of time. It may also be caused by pregnancy, which can pressurize the circulatory system, particularly in the legs. A high sodium intake can also cause the body to retain abnormal amounts of fluid.

There are a number of edema treatments which may be successful in cases where the swelling is not caused by an underlying condition. Many edema sufferers find that taking a diuretic medication can provide relief. This type of medication increases urine output, thus eliminating excess fluids from the tissues.

For some people, making certain dietary changes proves the most effective of all edema treatments. Limiting one’s sodium intake may be all that is necessary to eliminate uncomfortable swelling. While it may seem counterintuitive, many people find that drinking water throughout each day can help limit incidences of edema.

Often, edema sufferers find relief in treatments which boost the circulation and encourage the movement of fluid out of the tissues. Physical activity such as walking or swimming may prove successful. Gentle massage or elevation of the affected area can also encourage fluid movement. Finally, edema in the legs may be treated by wearing snugly fitting stockings, which can help force fluid out of the tissues by compressing them.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
M.C. Huguelet
By M.C. Huguelet
Cate Huguelet, a Chicago-based freelance writer with a passion for storytelling, crafts engaging content for a wide range of publications, including WiseGeek. With degrees in Writing and English, she brings a unique perspective and a commitment to clean, precise copy that resonates with readers. Her ability to understand and connect with audiences makes her a valuable asset to any content creation team.
Discussion Comments
By anon255299 — On Mar 16, 2012

Perdido: Where can I buy them? I live in Vancouver BC. Can't find anything but the plain kneehighs.

There is no cure for mine but the doc suggested compression stockings may help.

I have many medical problems that cause edema. Kidney failure and heart problems being the worst.

By dfoster85 — On Sep 07, 2011

I had terribly swollen legs after my C-section. I had been in labor a long time and had also had fluids, so that could have been a factor. I was able to wear my regular shoes my whole pregnancy, and then I had to go home from the hospital wearing my slippers because I couldn't get my shoes on!

I was told that, although it seem counterintuitive, drinking a lot of water would help by sort of flushing my system. I tried to get a little gentle physical activity (which in the hospital means putting baby in the bassinet and pushing him around the ward!).

In the hospital, they have special massaging leg wraps (not sure what they're called) to keep circulation going in your legs when you are confined to bed, as in the first hours after surgery. They're sort of like giant blood pressure cuffs that inflate and deflate automatically. I'm sure I would have had even worse swelling without them, but they sure were annoying! I was so glad when the night nurse got me out of bed and said that since I had been out of bed, I could have the wraps taken off.

By orangey03 — On Sep 07, 2011

My grandmother had venous stasis ulcers. She got them as a result of her frequent, persistent leg edema.

Her ulcers were located on the inside of her legs, right above her ankles. They were red and yellow, and they drained yellow-green pus most of the time. They had strangely shaped borders.

The skin around her ulcers was hot and swollen. It looked very shiny, and it was stretched tight.

Her doctor told her she had venous stasis ulcers. He said the discharge meant they were infected, so he gave her antibiotics. After the infection was gone, he told her to start wearing compression garments to alleviate the edema and prevent future ulcers.

By Perdido — On Sep 06, 2011

I use compression garments as my leg edema treatment. They are made to comfortably apply pressure that pushes the fluid to other parts of the body.

I had been wearing knee high stockings, but they were so tight and uncomfortable. A friend told me about compression garments, and I found some cushioned cotton knee high socks online specifically made to treat edema.

I bought some white ones to wear around the house, and I got some black ones to wear to work. They fit into my boots just fine, and no one knows I’m wearing them. They take care of the swelling, and they are so comfortable that I forget I have them on at times.

By OeKc05 — On Sep 06, 2011

I have a kidney condition, and I had edema a few years ago. Multiple cysts make it harder for blood to flow through my kidneys, so the condition also causes high blood pressure. I did not know this when I first swelled up, though, and I thought my kidneys might be failing.

My ankles and calves had started to swell, and I had never experienced this before. They looked really plump. I got scared and made an appointment with my nephrologist.

He said that in a roundabout way, the kidney condition caused the edema, but not in the way I thought it did. The condition caused my high blood pressure, and that actually caused the edema. He put me on blood pressure medication, and once it kicked in, the swelling went away.

By lighth0se33 — On Sep 05, 2011

My friend had a bad case of edema. She got depressed after breaking up with her boyfriend. He had done most of the cooking, and he had kept her fairly healthy. After he left, she ate at restaurants or got fast food for nearly every meal, and her sodium intake was off the charts.

Her legs, ankles, and hands swelled so much that it looked unnatural. She just broke down and cried when she first saw it, because to her, it was just one more consequence of him leaving.

She knew that she had to take charge of her life and focus on the things she could control. One major thing was her diet. She replaced the fatty, salty foods with fruits, vegetables, and home-cooked chicken and fish. She drank water instead of soda.

Her swelling went down significantly after the first day of her new diet. By the third day, it had disappeared completely. She continues to eat well, and she hasn’t had another edema episode since she made the change.

M.C. Huguelet
M.C. Huguelet
Cate Huguelet, a Chicago-based freelance writer with a passion for storytelling, crafts engaging content for a wide...
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