What You Should Know About Edema - Heart 'n Home Hospice & Palliative Care, LLC

What You Should Know About Edema


What is edema?

Edema is swelling or puffiness of parts of the body. Edema usually happens in the feet, ankles and legs. It can also affect the face and hands. Pregnant women and older adults often get edema, but it can happen to anyone.

What causes edema?

Edema happens when water gets trapped in the tissues in your body. Many things can cause edema. Some health problems, such as congestive heart failure, liver disease and kidney disease, can cause edema. You cannot catch edema from other people. Edema is most commonly caused by:

  • Physical Inactivity/Standing or Sitting Still for Long Periods of Time
  • Genetics
  • Surgery
  • High Altitudes
  • Heat/Burns
  • Pregnancy
  • Menstruation and Pre-Menstruation
  • Contraceptive Pills
  • Menopause
  • Certain Medications (Vasodilators, NSAIDs, Estrogens, Chemotherapy Drugs, Diabetes Drugs)
  • Excessive Salt Intake/Malnutrition/Poor Diet
  • Heart Conditions

How do you know if you have edema?

Your Heart ‘n Home Nurse or your healthcare provider can tell whether you have edema by examining you. The skin over the swollen area may be stretched and shiny. Pushing gently on the swollen area for about 15 seconds will leave a dimple.

How can edema be treated?

The only way to treat edema is to treat the condition that is causing it. The following are some things you can do to keep the swelling down:

  • Elevate your legs when you are sitting or lying down.
  • If you have edema of the legs, wear support stockings. You can buy these at most drugstores. Support stockings put pressure on your legs to keep fluid from collecting in your legs and ankles.
  • Do not sit or stand for long periods of time without moving around.
  • Limit the amount of salt you eat.
  • Your healthcare provider may prescribe a diuretic, which is also called a water pill.

(Treatment of Edema by JG O’Brien, M.D., SA Chennubhotla, M.D. and RV Chennubhotla, M.D. American Family Physician June 1, 2005, http://www.aafp.org/afp/20050601/2111.html)


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