EDEMA / SWELLING
By: Corinne Gehegan, DPM
Edema, commonly referred to as swelling or water retention is a condition whereby excess fluid is trapped within the body’s tissues. It is important to identify and address the underlying cause of edema. Edema can involve any part of the body, but it frequently affects the extremities.
Edema may develop secondary to a medical condition, tumors, trauma, infection, allergic reactions, insect bites, nutrition deficiencies, medications, and venous insufficiency. Medical conditions may include, but are not limited to processes that affect the heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, and endocrine system. Autoimmune diseases may also be implicated in the development of edema.
Lymphedema is swelling that most commonly affects the arms and legs. It is due to a blockage of the lymphatic system that prevents the lymph fluid from adequately draining. Lymph is fluid that contains proteins, fats, and white blood cells. The lymph system is a major component of the immune system. Lymphedema may be hereditary in nature or induced by surgical removal of lymph nodes or any other procedure that damages the lymph nodes.
A deep vein thrombosis (DVT) may also result in edema as well as warmth, redness, and tenderness of the affected extremity. A DVT is a blood clot in the deep veins of the legs. If the clot dislodges it may travel to a pulmonary (lung) artery and result in a fatal blockage of that artery. Many factors increase a person’s risk for developing a deep vein thrombosis. They include, but are not limited to: prolonged bed rest/immobilization, inherited blood clotting disorders, trauma, surgery, cancer, pregnancy, oral contraceptives, age greater than forty, obesity, and smoking.
Treatment is aimed at eliminating the underlying cause if possible. Modalities to manage edema include elevation, compression, diuretics (water pills), and decreasing salt intake. Compression may be in the form of bandages, compression stockings, or mechanical compression systems. Pneumatic compression devices (PCD’s) mimic the body’s own physiology and effectively decongest edematous tissues. They are often used to treat non healing wounds. The only contraindication is a DVT. Treatment with PCD’s are carried out at home with a portable device. For more details please visit Normatechusa.com.
Article written by Dr. Corinne Gehegan
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