What is Edema?

Sometimes our body is not able to excrete excess fluids out of our body and they start to get accumulated in the tissues of the body. This medical condition is known as Edema. Skin and kidneys are mainly responsible for removal of excess fluids in the form of sweat and urine respectively. In human body, oncotic pressure and hydrostatic pressure together works to regulate the amount of fluids in the body. The pressure generated by fluids is known as hydrostatic pressure while the pressure generated by proteins present in the blood plasma is termed as oncotic pressure.

What is Edema?

The various factors responsible for buildup of excess fluids or edema in the human body are as follows:

  • Increase in the pressure exerted by fluids or hydrostatic pressure can cause edema.
  • Decrease in the pressure exerted by proteins in blood resulting in lesser pressure on blood vessels.
  • Increase in the oncotic pressure that affects the tissues.
  • Leakage of fluids from the walls of the degraded blood vessels leading to decrease in oncotic pressure and increase in permeability.
  • Inability of the lymphatic system to get rid of fluids accumulating in the spaces between the cells or interstitial spaces.
  • Increase in the tendency of tissues to allow accumulation of water can lead to edema.

What are the Types of Edema?

There are various types of edemas classified according to the particular part of organ of the body where fluids get accumulated. Some of the types of edema have further subdivisions. There can be many causes for occurrence of edema in the body such as allergy, change in composition of the chemicals present in the body etc. Among various types of Edema, some are restricted to particular parts of the body while others can affect any part of the body.

  1. Generalized Edema

    Generalized edema usually causes accumulation of excess fluids in multiple parts of the body such as legs, face, arms, feet and abdomen. Accumulation of water leads to puffiness and swelling in the respective parts of the body. This type of edema is characterized by tightening of skin or bloating. The main causes of generalized edema are chemical imbalance in the body, illness, pregnancy, trauma etc. The severe case of generalized edema is called as pitting edema. When the skin is pressed and the indentation lasts for more than 10 to 20 seconds, it is called as pitting edema.

  2. Skin Edema

    Skin edema as the name suggests refers to the accumulation of fluids in the some parts of the skin resulting into puffy and tight skins. Skin edema is not a severe condition but it can be extremely painful. This type of edema is usually caused by allergies of the skin due to chemicals, detergents, mosquito bites or irritants. Cutaneous is also used to refer edema of skin.

    Periorbital edema is also one of the variants of skin edema in which the accumulation of fluids occurs in the tissues present around the eyes referred as periorbital tissues.

  3. Peripheral Edema

    Peripheral edema is one of the most commonly occurring edemas that affects the peripheral parts of the body such as ankles, feet and legs where excess fluids can get accumulated. There can be several conditions such as hypertension, pregnancy, kidney problems, older age, and congestive heart failure that can cause peripheral edema. Constantly standing or sitting in a static posture can also lead to this type of edema. Various medications that can helps in relieving peripheral edema are as follows:

    • Pioglitazone and rosiglitazone.
    • NSAIDs (ibuprofen, naproxen)
    • Calcium channel blockers can help in treating peripheral edema.
    • Corticosteroids (prednisone, methylprednisolone).
    • Pramiprexole.
  4. Corneal Edema

    Corneal Edema refers to the retention of excess fluids in cornea. The eye tends to swell due to accumulation of fluids. The possible factors that can result in this type of edema includes ocular surgery, endothelial disorder, traumatic injury, viral infections, dehydration, toxins and increased ocular pressure.

  5. Cerebral Edema

    The type of edema in which the fluids accumulate in the spaces between and within the cells of the brain is referred as cerebral edema. The most common factor responsible for this type of edema is abnormalities in metabolic activities in the body due to shortage of oxygen at mountain peaks or any other underlying medical condition. It is serious type of edema that can cause serious damage to brain and even loss of consciousness.

    There are four different types of cerebral edema including cytotoxic, interstitial, vasogenic and osmotic cerebral types of edema.

    1. Cytroxic cerebral edema is a subtype of cerebral edema usually results due to improper functioning of the sodium and potassium pump associated with the glial cells that can result into accumulation of excess fluids. However, it does not interfere with the barrier between blood and brain.
    2. Interstitial edema is the second subtype of cerebral edema which is caused due to dismantling of the barrier between brain and fluids in the brain causing cerebrospinal fluids to leak into the extracellular brain.
    3. Vasogenic cerebral edema is a serious type of edema that breaks down the barrier between blood and brain. It leads to leakage of plasma into the white matter. This type of edema can occur due to trauma, tumor or different cardio vascular events. If vasogenic edema is associated with cancer causing cells, the tumor can get worse and lead to interference in the barrier between blood and brain. Vasogenic edema has been further divided into three categories depending on the factors that cause vasogenic edema. They are hydrostatic cerebral edema and high altitude cerebral edema,.
    4. If the brain osmolality surpasses the plasma osmolality then the extra pressure which is created forces the fluids into the human brain causing osmotic cerebral edema.
  6. Pulmonary Edema

    When the pulmonary veins get blocked, excess fluids can get accumulated in lungs leading to a type of edema referred as pulmonary edema. This is caused because of the increase in the blood pressure that pushes the fluids into the lungs.

  7. Myxedema

    When compounds like hyaluronan that attracts water gets accumulated in the connective tissues, they can attract water and cause tissue matrix to get filled with water leading to swelling. This type of edema also affects the lymphatic system which makes myxedema more severe than other types of edema.

  8. Lymphedema

    Lymphatic system in our body is responsible for regulating the fluids between the spaces of our cells. In case of lymphedema, lymphatic system is not able to work properly leading to accumulation of fluids in the interstitial spaces.

    There are many factors that can lead to this type of edema such as cancer, expansion of lymphatic nodes or damage to lymph vessels during radiation therapy, inability of lymph hearts as a result of side effect of medications like ibuprofen, infection in lymphatic system etc.

How are Edemas Treated?

The exact choice of treatment for edema is determined by the type of edema. Any individual suffering from edema is required to reduce the intake of sodium in his or her diet. Doctors also recommend some specific diuretics.

Some of the common home remedies that can relieve edemas are:

  • Exercising regularly.
  • Reducing the intake of salt in daily diet is a good home remedy for edema.
  • Sleeping with legs raised above the head.
  • Avoiding long period of sitting or standing.
  • Reducing body weight.
  • Avoid intake of sugar, alcohol and caffeine.

There are some more therapies such as massage therapy, oxygen therapy, acupuncture etc. that are known to offer relief in edema.

Also Read:

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD, FFARCSI

Last Modified On: June 29, 2017

Pain Assist Inc.

Pramod Kerkar
  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

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