Edema, also known as dropsy, is swelling caused by fluid retention. Edema usually occurs in the legs, ankles, or feet. But it can also occur in the hands, the face, or any other part of the body.
Edema is usually a symptom of another condition. In women, it is often a sign of pregnancy or a sign that the menstrual cycle is about to occur (Mayo Clinic, 2011).
Serious illnesses such as heart failure, kidney disease, and liver problems (such as cirrhosis) may also cause edema.
Medications, such as those prescribed for high blood pressure, diabetes, or pain, can cause edema. Sometimes, edema is a result of damaged or varicose veins in the legs.
After a mastectomy, edema can be a result of removal of the lymph nodes. This form of edema is known as lymphedema.
A poor diet, especially a diet containing too much salt, can cause mild edema or worsen it when combined with other conditions. Lack of activity can cause edema. But spending too much time on your feet, especially in hot weather, can worsen it (Medline Plus, 2013).
If you experience edema while pregnant, call a doctor. It can be an indicator of complications.
Seek emergency assistance if you have trouble breathing. In pulmonary edema, the lungs fill with water. This is a serious medical condition.
The two most common solutions for alleviating edema are reducing salt intake and keeping the legs up when sitting.
If a life-threatening illness is causing edema, see a doctor immediately.
The advice you receive from a medical professional will depend upon your condition:
To prevent edema, stay as physically active as you are able, avoid excess sodium in your diet, and follow your doctorâs orders regarding any conditions that cause edema.