By edema excessive fluid gather in body parts or greater areas of the body, making the areas swollen. Edema is most often a problem in the legs, but can occur anywhere in the body.
There are several types of edema, and many cases are also a mixture of more than one type. By lymphedema the drainage from the tissues through the lymph vessels are impaired or excessive fluid goes through the blood capillary walls into the spaces between the cells in a tissue. Edema can also occur because of poor drainage of blood through the veins towards the heart. Edema can further be caused by general accumulation of excessive fluid in the body.
The causes of edema are many. Edema is a symptom by most inflammations. Insufficient heart action by congestive heart failure can cause edema. A too high intake of salt can cause general water retention in the body. Sitting and standing long in the same position can cause edema in the lower limbs. A still sitting life without exercise can cause or aggravate edema.
Insufficiencies of the liver or kidneys can cause fluid retention and thereby edema. Edema can be a side effect of antihypertensive drugs, steroids surgery and radiation therapy. Further causes of different types of edema are varicose veins, cancer, hypothyroidism, blood clots, constipation and physical injuries.
To treat edema, it is important to treat the underlying disease or injury. However, medical treatment does not always cure the underlying condition or the cause is wholly or partially lifestyle aspects. Therefore various measures targeted directly against the edema are useful. These are presented here:
Pharmacological treatments: The physician will sometimes prescribe diuretics to reduce fluid retention in the body and thereby reduce edema. This treatment should however be used for serious edema or edema persistent when other measures do not work.
Salt intake restriction: Restriction of salt intake is an important measure by edema. People suffering from edema should avoid adding great amount of salt into their food or consume preprocessed food with a salty taste.
Diet: A good general diet that alleviates chronic inflammation is useful. The diet should especially contain enough sources of omega-3-fatty acids and monounsaturated fatty acids, like: Fat fish, seafood, flax oil, olive oil, almonds, rape oil and canola oil. Also vegetables and fruit in a natural shape are useful.
Avoiding constipation: Constipation should be treated, since a stomach engorged by excessive content can cause impairment of fluid circulation.
Variation of corporeal position: You should avoid sitting or standing still a long time during the day. When sitting during work or rest, you should change position with regular intervals.
Exercise: Every day you should have some exercise adjusted to your health condition. This could be walking, cycling, swimming, running or any other sport activity where you use greater parts of your body. Doing regular stretching exercises or yoga is useful. By severe edema special therapeutic exercises should be prescribed by a professional.
High position of limb: When you are sleeping or resting the swollen body parts can be placed in an elevated position by means of pillows, pads or by resting in an adjustable bed or chair.
Massage: By minor edema yourself, your spouse or a friend can massage the affected body part to alleviate the edema. The massage should be done in the direction of natural flow of blood and lymph that is towards the heart. You should however avoid massaging distinctly injured or distinctly inflamed body parts. By severe edema a professional massager should be engaged to perform the massage type called "manual lymphatic drainage".
Elastic bandaging: You can use elastic gloves, stockings, tapes or bandages around the swollen body parts during the day or during physical activities after instruction from a professional person.
Inflatable garments: There are inflatable garments to be found that can be used around the engorged body parts some times of the day. Also these should be used after professional instruction.
Sequential gradient pump therapy: One can get special electric pumps connected to inflatable garments. The pump inflates and deflates the garments repeatedly. Each garment has several rooms that are inflated sequentially in the direction of the natural fluid stream towards the heart. In this way the fluid is dynamically pumped the right way out of the engorged body part. This type of therapy is used in professional settings or at home after instruction from a professional.
Skin care: The skin on a body part affected by severe edema should attain special care to avoid and treat sores. Proper cleaning, daily use of moisturing creams, proper rinsing of skin injuries, antiseptic creams by injuries.
Complete decongestive therapy: This is a complete set of edema treatment techniques done by a professional person combined with self-care instructed by the professional. The techniques used are: Manual lymphatic drainage, compression bandaging, therapeutic exercise and skin care.
Herbal and natural products: Many herbs and products composed of a blending of these herbs are used against edema. Such herbs are: Dandelion, Gingko biloba, horse chestnut, buchu, goldenrod, corn silk, horsetail, juniper, butchers broom, cleaver and ginger. Some people have experienced a good effect from using apple cider vinegar.
The flavonide rich product pycnognenol extracted from the bark of the French maritime pine has shown promising effects against edema according to scientific studies. The flavonides hydroxyethylrutosides also seem to have good effect against edema. Other natural substances that may help to treat edema are the flavonids diosmin and hesperidin and vitamin C.
Oil pulling: The procedure called "oil pulling" may help for edema. It consists of rinsing the mouth with one tablespoon of natural oil for 15-20 minutes and then spitting the oil out. It is done in the morning before eating. Sesame or sunflower oils are usually recommended for this use.
Author: Knut Holt