What is Dropsy?

Dropsy is an old word for edema, which is a condition where there is accumulation of fluid in the body (beneath the skin, body cavities, interstitial spaces) leading to its swelling. Any part of organ of the body can be affected by dropsy; however, it is more commonly seen in the ankles, feet and legs.

Treatment for dropsy in humans depends on its underlying cause and consists of medications, such as diuretics and antihypertensives. Dropsy need not always be from a serious problem and many of the times home treatment is sufficient to relieve it.

What is Dropsy?

Causes of Dropsy

If there is excess fluid present in the body, then it goes to blood and gets excreted via sweat, urine and feces. If there is any obstruction present in the circulatory system or if there is any thickening of the blood, then there is decrease in the oncotic pressure. The function of oncotic pressure is to ease the circulation of the fluid within the vessels. If there is any disruption in this, then it leads to fluid retention in spaces between the tissues resulting in swelling. Depending on the site of the fluid retention, there are different types of dropsy, such as peripheral edema, ascitespulmonary edema and pleural effusion.

There are different causes for dropsy. Some of them are physiological whereas some are pathological. One of the major causes of dropsy is pregnancy; and after the birth of the child, this condition resolves. Some of the other causes include liver cirrhosis, heart problems, deep vein thrombosis, irregular menstrual cycle, certain medicines and increased salt intake. Sitting in the same position for prolonged periods of time can also lead to dropsy.

Types of Dropsy

Peripheral Edema: If there is accumulation of excessive fluid in the peripheral regions of the body, such as ankles, feet and legs, then it is known as peripheral edema.

Ascites: If there is accumulation of excessive fluid in the peritoneal cavity or abdominal cavity, then it is known as ascites.

Pulmonary Edema: If there is accumulation of excessive fluid in the interstitial spaces present between the alveoli of the lung, then it is known as pulmonary edema.

Periorbital Edema: Periorbital puffiness or edema is a condition where a person has swelling around the eyes seen after waking up in the morning.

Pleural Effusion: If there is accumulation of excessive fluid in the pleural/lung cavity, then it is known as pleural effusion.

Signs & Symptoms of Dropsy

  • Swelling and distention, puffiness in ankles, leg, feet and in some cases face and hands also is seen as symptoms of dropsy.
  • The skin, which is affected, becomes shiny and stretched in appearance.
  • Pitting edema is present, i.e. there is formation of a dimple or depression on the skin if pressure is applied to it.
  • Depending on the underlying cause of the dropsy, patient can experience symptoms of breathlessness, pain in the abdomen, decreased urine and chest pain.

Treatment for Dropsy

Treatment of dropsy depends on the underlying cause of this condition. Treatment consists of:

Medications: Diuretics are prescribed which increase the urine output. Other than this, antihypertensive medications are also prescribed.

Home Remedies for Dropsy

  • Salt intake should be cut down, as salt retains water in the body and worsens the symptoms of dropsy.
  • When sitting, legs should be kept elevated, as this helps the blood flow towards the heart from gravity and decreases the symptoms of dropsy.
  • Walking for short periods of time also helps in maintaining the blood flow towards the heart.
  • Wearing stocking helps in decreasing the swelling.
  • Alcohol intake should be cut down to prevent liver cirrhosis.

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD, FFARCSI

Last Modified On: October 3, 2016

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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