What is Edema and How Can it Affect Me?

People from all walks of life, whether healthy or unhealthy, need to be informed regarding what is edema, what its effects can be on the body, how to stave it off – and what to do if someone has this condition. This is because, as will be discussed, anyone can get it, even someone who is healthy.

An edema is, in short, the buildup of fluid in the body – fluid that can either be drain out of the body extremely slowly, or may not be draining out at all. This buildup can take place rapidly or gradually, and it can occur in a certain area like the feet, arms, hands or legs alone (more likely due to the effects of gravity, which pulls fluid downwards until it pools in the lower extremities), a phenomenon called localized edema; or, in severe cases, practically the entire body can be filled with extra fluid. Other symptoms can include tingling sensations in swollen areas, puffiness and redness, and a very sudden weight gain in some cases.

After determining what is edema, it is next important to find out the causes of this condition. There is a range of potential causes, and it is important to realize that even healthy people can develop temporary edema due to some of these causes.

First we will take up the less serious or debilitating ones. Edema can be caused by lengthy periods in which someone is moving minimally or not at all, such as while during office work or in an airplane. Fluids can pool naturally in one’s extremities if this is the case. This kind can be relieved and even avoided entirely by taking the time to get up and stretch every so often. Pregnant women can also suffer certain sorts as a side effect of their pregnancy, and these may go away and recur from time to time until they carry their children to term. Edema may even be caused by dehydration. Should the body feel that it is not getting enough water, its tendency is to retain the water already stored in it, which in many people leads to this condition as the water and fluids can end up pooling in various areas and extremities.

Other causes of this condition may be far more serious. People who are overweight may experience bloating, which can occur as a consequence of poor circulation and waste fluids from cells accumulating in open spaces within the body. As is obvious, quite apart from the fact that this is uncomfortable, it is not at all good as these waste products can wreak havoc if they are not removed. Organ failure that results in circulation slowdown or breakdown is a more serious cause of edema, as it can lead to someone’s death if it is not treated immediately.

Finally, now that we know what is edema, we can discuss how it can be treated. Any kinds of edema not caused by something serious can be treated by anti-edema medication, diet modifications such as salt reduction (since salt causes the body to hold on to water), taking natural diuretics such as certain kinds of herbal tea, and even exercise (which, as shown above, can help by increasing circulation and sweat rate).