Edema is the medical term for swelling that occurs when excess fluid becomes trapped in your tissues. Any area of your body can be affected by edema, but it’s most common in the hands, feet, and lower legs. Some types of edema - specifically those caused by allergic reactions - are associated with swelling around the mouth, lips, and tongue. These types of edema (called angioedema) can interfere with your ability to breathe or swallow, and they require emergency treatment to prevent serious complications.
Lots of factors can cause fluid retention and edema. Some of the most common include:
While some causes are relatively mild, the last five causes are very serious, and without prompt medical treatment, they can even be life-threatening.
In addition to swelling, edema under the skin is associated with stretched, shiny skin over the area of swelling. Often, the swollen area will remain “dimpled” after being pressed. Pulmonary edema is associated with shortness of breath, chest pain, and problems breathing. Swelling and pain in your leg or foot can be a sign of deep vein thrombosis, a serious condition caused by a clot that forms in your leg.
First, Dr. McKenzie will review your medical history and your symptoms. Then, you’ll have a physical exam and lab tests, like blood tests and urinalysis. Depending on your symptoms, you might also have an ultrasound, X-rays, or other imaging studies to help determine the cause.
Some mild edema will resolve on its own after the affected area is elevated. More significant edema and persistent or chronic edema can be treated with diuretics to help the body eliminate excess fluid. If you have edema due to an underlying medical condition or a medication you’re taking, you’ll need treatment to resolve that condition or to have your prescription or dosing changed. You may need to be referred to a specialist, like a cardiologist or a nephrologist for additional studies.
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