Managing Your Edema

Edema is a condition in which fluid retention leads to swelling in the body. It can happen in any part of your body, but it most often occurs in the legs, ankles, and feet. It used to be known as dropsy.

Edema is often caused by certain medications and health conditions. In this blog, Kerry E. Berg, DPM, of Intermountain Foot & Ankle Associates in Colorado Springs, Colorado, explains more about what edema is and how you can manage it.

What causes edema?

Edema is caused by excess fluid that becomes trapped in your tissues. You can most commonly tell that you have edema if you have swelling in your feet, legs, or ankles. Some people even have what’s called pitting edema, which means that the imprint of your thumb will still be visible after pressing it into your affected body part.

In addition to swelling in the affected parts of your body, you may also notice that the skin may look shiny and red. You might even have difficulty walking if the edema is severe enough. 

Edema is most often caused by certain medications or health conditions. Some of these include the following:

Treating edema at home

This may sound counterintuitive, but one of the most important things you can do when you have edema is increase your water intake. Drinking more fluids will help flush the water out of your swollen tissues and thus help reduce the swelling. 

However, it’s important to make the right choices regarding your intake of liquids. Caffeinated beverages and alcohol can actually make your edema worse. Stick to plain water and noncaffeinated beverages.

It’s also important to maintain a healthy, low-salt diet. Salt can contribute to water retention and cause the problem to get worse. You may want to be especially aware of packaged foods and meals in restaurants, as many of these can contain high amounts of salt.

When to get medical care

If you have edema, some situations, such as the following, may require seeing a doctor.

Medication-related edema

If you’ve noticed fluid retention after taking a new medication, talk with your doctor to see if there’s an alternate medication that won’t have the same effect.

Diabetes-related edema

Diabetic foot care is critical, and edema can be a sign that your diabetes may need to be managed more effectively.

Sudden development of edema during pregnancy

If you’re pregnant and suddenly develop edema, particularly if it’s a new problem and you can’t easily attribute it to hot weather or long periods of standing or sitting, you should call your OB/GYN right away and may even need to seek emergency treatment. Edema during pregnancy, especially when it develops quickly, can be a sign of serious complications.

Edema complications

You need to seek emergency treatment if you have edema and begin having trouble breathing. In some rare cases, you can develop pulmonary edema, a serious condition in which your lungs fill with fluid.

If you have edema, Dr. Berg can help. She can evaluate your condition and design a plan to help you manage it. To learn more, book an appointment online or over the phone with Intermountain Foot & Ankle Associates today.

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