Edema or oedema refers to swelling. It is a condition that refers to the swelling of parts of your body. The swelling can occur in any part of the body due to injury or inflammation which leads to the leakage of body fluids from the blood vessels into nearby tissues.
Edema can happen to anyone and can also occur in senior citizens due to a variety of causes. The underlying causes of edema must be treated carefully.
Depending on the type of body part affected, edema is categorized into the following:
- Pulmonary edema
- Cerebral edema
- Macular edema
- Pedal edema
- Peripheral edema.
Inflammation or injury, or medication or pregnancy, are a few causes of Edema. It can also be symptom of various underlying health conditions that include- kidney failure, liver cirrhosis or infections, or congestive heart failure. Allergies, obstructions in venous flow and cases of low albumin in the blood can also cause Edema.
Mild cases of edema are due to the consumption of excessively salty food or sitting or staying in a single position for a long time. Medications taken for high blood pressure, estrogens, diabetes, steroid drugs, and anti-inflammatory drugs may also trigger edema.
Symptoms of Edema:
The symptoms of edema depend on the location and the severity of the condition. Usually, minor edema caused by an inflammation, or an infection may not display any symptoms. Sometimes, a strong allergic reaction can cause swelling of an entire body part and limit your limb’s movement.
Edema, caused by food allergies or medications allergies, can be life-threatening by blocking your breathing.
In leg edema, feet may swell, and your legs are likely to become heavy, leading to difficulty in walking. In severe cases, it may cause blood flow interference leading to ulcers.
One of the symptoms that help doctors determine the cause of your edema is pitting. If there is a pit on your skin after you press on the region with edema, it is called pitting edema. If the skin jumps back to its original shape after you press it, it is non-pitting edema.
Edema may also cause shiny or stretched skin.
Low oxygen levels in the blood and breathlessness are significant symptoms of Pulmonary edema.
How Edema affects Senior Citizens
Edema is a common health condition in senior citizens as they are aged, and follow a comparatively sedentary lifestyle, and medications used to combat illnesses. Senior citizens are also more susceptible to chronic diseases that may lead to edema The presence of edema in a senior citizen should be carefully monitored or managed, to prevent severe complications such as an acute illness or even death.
Treatment for Edema:
The treatment of edema for both adults and senior citizens is the same.
If you have mild edema, then it may resolve itself on its own. You can help cure it by elevating the affected limb higher than your heart for some time.
More severe edema must be treated with drugs. These drugs are meant to help your body to expel the excess fluid through urine.
Your doctor will determine treatment depending on your medical history and the underlying cause. For example, if an infection is the main cause, then that infection must be treated. If a medication causes the edema, your doctor may alter your dose or prescribe different medicines or treatments.
Sometimes, edema caused by a block in fluid drainage is treated by resuming the drainage flow. Blood thinners are used to treat blood clots in the legs. The clot is broken down which heals the drainage flow mechanism. Surgery, chemotherapy or radiation treatments are used when there is a tumor blocking the blood or lymph as these options remove or shrink it easily.
Home remedies that help you reduce edema include movement exercises, the affected limb’s elevation, massage, protecting the affected area, and compression of the affected area.
Precautions for Adults and Senior Citizens:
If you are experiencing edema, then you need to get it checked by a doctor. Your doctor checks the medical history and prescribes a range of tests to ascertain the underlying cause.
Examinations like X-ray, MRI, blood tests, urine analysis will be done. You must see your doctor immediately if you experience a shortness of breath or any difficulty in breathing or chest pain.
Senior citizens can take a few extra measures to help manage their edema such as –
- Eating Healthy and Balanced Meals: Consuming a healthy and balanced diet helps prevent edema caused by dietary issues such as- low protein or high salt consumption.
- Elevating the legs above your heart level for around 30 minutes helps in relieving foot, ankle, and leg edema. Repeat this workout at least 3-4 times a day for improved results.
- Stay Active: Leading an active lifestyle can help to reduce edema and the amount of build-up body fluids.
- Therapy: Senior citizens can opt for regular massage therapy sessions, increasing blood flow, and preventing blood clots.
- Compression stockings are used to prevent/ treat people suffering from leg edema.
FAQs of Edema:
- How does one feel edema?
Edema takes the form of swelling, which could be in any part of your body. If it is in the limb, you may have difficulty moving the leg due to stiffness. If a food allergy causes edema, it may lead to difficulty in breathing, and you should see a doctor immediately.
- What happens if edema is left untreated?
In case you do not treat your edema, you could face complications such as :
- Increase in painful swelling
- Walking becomes a difficult job
- Skin become stretchy, itchy and uncomfortable
- The swollen area becomes a risky spot for infections
- Scars between tissue layers
- Blood circulation decreases
- Elasticity of veins, joints, muscles and arteries decreases
- Skin ulcers become frequent
- Is edema in the legs life-threatening?
Edema, by itself, is not a life-threatening disorder. However, it could indicate the presence of a life-threatening illness. Edema caused by heart failure, a kidney or liver disease, or an obstruction caused by a tumor can prove to be fatal. One of the most dangerous complications of edema is difficulty in breathing. If it is blocking your airway, then you need to see a doctor immediately.
- How do I get rid of edema in my legs?
To get rid of edema, your doctor first needs to diagnose the root cause and depending on the type of edema you’re suffering from, you will be suggested relevant treatment options.