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Edema: what it is, types, causes and treatment

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Edema occurs when there is fluid accumulation under the skin, which usually appears due to infections or excessive salt consumption, but can also arise in cases of inflammation, intoxication and hypoxia, which is when oxygen is lacking in a certain part of the body, in addition to kidney, heart or lymphatic system disease.

In this case, it is common for edema, also called swelling, to appear on the hands, arms, legs, feet and face, causing the skin to be marked with a slight depression whenever pressure is applied to the affected area with a finger. . Depending on the cause, the appearance of edema can happen suddenly, or gradually throughout the day.

The treatment of edema must be individualized and focused on eliminating the cause, but generally the general practitioner recommends rest, elevation of the affected limb above the level of the heart and reduction of the amount of salt consumed daily, in addition to prescribing diuretic drugs, which help in the release of excess fluid in the body through urine.



Edema is classified into three types and aims to better clarify the cause and know exactly what the composition of the fluid that has leaked under the skin is. The main types of edema are:

1. Common edema

Common edema is composed of water and proteins and is usually related to less serious situations, such as insect bites, falls or allergies to pollen, perfumes, makeup and dust, for example.

However, when it is generalized, that is, when it is present in several parts of the body, it can be a more serious situation, which needs medical attention at the health center or hospital. This condition may also be known as anasarca, which is more common in health conditions such as cirrhosis of the liver, heart failure, or nephrotic syndrome. Understand better what anasarca is and how it is treated.

2. Lymphedema

Lymphedema is usually composed of water, proteins and lipids, and it happens when the fluid that is part of the lymphatic circulation leaks into the skin and organs. This is more common in cases of cancer, elephantiasis and obstructed lymph nodes. See how lymphedema can be treated.



3. Myxedema

The main difference from myxedema is the high presence of lipids in its composition, which makes the swelling firmer than other types of edema, also relying on water and proteins. Myxedema most often affects the face, leaving the eyes swollen, but it can also be generalized.

This type of edema occurs mainly when there is hypothyroidism or when hormonal treatment has been used.

The main symptom of edema is swelling of the affected region, but if the swelling is very large, it is possible to notice other symptoms such as brighter and stretched skin. If the swelling is in the feet or legs, when walking, the person may feel a slight burning and tingling.

If the edema does not disappear after a few hours, or if the pain is mild or moderate, and the skin becomes sensitive, it is recommended to go to the emergency room to assess the condition and check it through tests such as a blood count, echocardiogram, X-ray and urine 24 hours, if it is not something more serious and that requires specific treatment.

The main diseases responsible for causing edema can arise due to 4 types of body changes, such as:

1. Increase in capillary pressure

The increase in capillary pressure is usually caused by obstruction of veins, which can happen by the accumulation of fat, thrombi or by external compression, due to very tight clothes, for example. When this happens, the pressure that the liquids put on the blood vessels is greater than normal and, therefore, the liquids end up escaping from the vessels and accumulating in the tissues of the body.

Usually the causes related to this issue are heart, renal or venous insufficiency, and in some cases, a high sodium/salt diet. When these causes are not treated properly, they can lead to pulmonary edema, where fluid builds up in the lung. Understand better what lung edema is and how to treat it.

2. Reduction of plasma proteins

When the levels of plasma proteins in the body are reduced, the reabsorption of fluids in the deeper layers of the skin does not take place, and this eventually leads to the accumulation of fluids under the skin, thus generating edema. As a consequence, this fluid that is now in excess in the tissues is no longer in the circulation, which decreases the production of urine by the kidneys, resulting in more fluid inside the body, thus further increasing the edema.

This type of edema usually appears in people who have nephrotic syndrome, liver disease, protein malnutrition, or who have suffered severe burns.

3. Increased capillary permeability

In this case, there is a greater permeability of blood vessels, usually caused by some inflammation, and, therefore, liquids end up escaping from the vessels and accumulating in the tissues of the body.

Some situations that can cause increased capillary pressure and edema are allergies, burns, vitamin C deficiency, infections, toxins or the use of vasodilators.

4. Blockage of lymphatic return

Edema caused by blockage of lymphatic return, also called lymphedema, occurs when there is an obstruction of lymphatic vessels. It is common for this to occur in case of hypothyroidism, cancer of the lymph nodes, or after lymphadenectomy.

The main characteristic of this edema is that the swelling appears to be firmer to the touch and the skin can look like an orange peel. Learn how lymphedema can be treated.

The treatment to eliminate the edema should be according to the condition that caused it. In milder cases, rest, reduction of salt intake in food and also massage in the affected region is indicated, to help drain excess fluid, until the edema disappears.

In the most serious cases, where health conditions such as diseases of the liver, kidneys and other organs are present, treatment of the specific disease that caused the edema is necessary, in addition to the use of drugs such as furosemide, bumetanide or spironolactone. See what other remedies can be used to deflate.

Care to prevent edema

Healthy changes in the daily routine that are maintained over time can help prevent and reduce the intensity and appearance of new edema, such as:

  • Reduce the consumption of sodium and salt in the diet;
  • Maintain the ideal weight for height, age and sex;
  • Practice physical exercises regularly;
  • Elevate your legs when lying or sitting above heart level.

These actions can be done by all people who do not have any chronic disease, however, for those who have a health problem, these practices must be indicated by a doctor responsible for the treatment before they are started.

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Consult a Doctor | Translated by User2937

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Isenção de responsabilidade – (versão em português): Este conteúdo foi preparado com base em informações de pesquisas, publicações adicionais ou no trabalho de tradução/verificação de um editor voluntário deste conselho web. Este é um serviço sem fins lucrativos. É altamente recomendável que todos os detalhes e informações publicadas sejam verificadas cuidadosamente. Nunca permitimos recomendações de medicamentos, bulas ou qualquer orientação sobre medicamentos. Nunca permitimos a política partidária como base para checagem. Para mais informações, leia nossos termos.

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