Edema occurs when excess fluid is trapped under the skin, resulting in swelling of the area around the fluid. It occurs primarily in the arms, hands, legs, ankles and feet, though it can occur elsewhere, e.g., the face. Other symptoms include shiny skin, skin that holds a dimple after being pressed in for several seconds, or a swollen abdomen. Edema can be remedied with medications and lifestyle adjustments.
Edema results from inactivity, a poor diet incorporating lots of salty food, being pregnant, having certain medical conditions (such as cirrhosis or congestive heart failure), certain medications (like estrogens or vasodialators) or premenstrual syndrome. Occasionally, these conditions can result in damaged capillaries that leak fluid. As a result, the kidneys will attempt to compensate by retaining fluid and salt. Consequently, there is more fluid within the body than usual, and the capillaries will continue to leak more fluid, resulting in swollen tissue surrounding the capillaries.
A health care practitioner will usually treat edema by addressing the underlying cause and prescribing a decrease of salt in the diet. A diuretic may also be prescribed. There are, however, several additional lifestyle and home remedy options you can pursue. -- Exercise regularly. It can be as simple as taking a walk or doing some stretches, but all exercise will assist the body in moving excess fluid back towards the heart. Try exercising in a swimming pool: the water pressure from the pool may force excess bodily water into the bladder. -- Elevate the affected portion of the body above the heart for about 30 minutes three or four times per day to reduce swelling. -- Massage the affected region with firm but gentle strokes; be sure to stroke towards the heart, encouraging the fluid to flow in that direction. -- Reduce dietary salt. -- Avoid hot and cold environments; wear condition-appropriate clothing. Do not take hot showers or baths. Avoid sun exposure. Extreme temperatures can exacerbate edema. -- Compression stockings, sleeves or gloves may also be helpful. -- Drink six to eight glasses of water every day. This will help the kidneys flush excess water and salt from the body. -- Herbal tea functions as a diuretic. Drink three cups daily. -- Flax seed has also been reported to alleviate edema--dress a salad with flax seed oil, or sprinkle flax seed meal into foods like oatmeal.
When to Seek Treatment
If there are symptoms of edema, consult a doctor, as they may indicate a significant underlying problem. Pulmonary edema may be an issue if there is an associated shortness of breath and chest pain. Pulmonary edema is life-threatening, and a doctor should be consulted immediately.