What is edema?
Edema is the medical term used for swelling caused by excess fluid trapped in the body’s tissue. It can affect all parts of the body, but it is noticed most often in the hands, arms, feet, ankles, and legs.
Edema happens when the small blood vessels leak fluid into nearby tissues. The extra fluid builds up, which makes the tissue swell.
There can be indentations or “pitting” that remain in the skin after pushing on the skin in some types of edema. This is called pitting edema. If the tissue springs back to its normal shape, it’s called non-pitting edema.
What are the symptoms of edema?
- An arm or leg starts feeling full or heavy.
- The arm or leg starts to look swollen.
- When you press the swelling, it leaves a dent.
- The skin near the edema feels tight or warm.
- It becomes harder to move any joints that are affected.
- There is a sensation of tautness or even pain in the surrounding area.
What are the different types of edema?
Short-term edema is when a body part swells from an injury or from inflammation. A fracture, sprain, strain, or even a bad bruise in your leg, ankle, foot, or hand can result in swelling and pain. Inflammation in your lower leg may also be caused by an infection, a torn tendon or ligament, or a strained muscle. This edema is temporary and can be treated with medical aids like supports and braces.
Chronic edema is edema that has been present for more than three months and shows constant swelling. It can be a symptom of an underlying medical condition.
Lymphedema occurs when there is impairment to the lymphatic system, disrupting the normal transport of fluid within the body. When the lymphatic system becomes overwhelmed, damaged, or blocked for an extended period of time, chronic swelling (edema) occurs. It usually affects one arm or leg.
Lipedema does not involve the lymphatic system but is a pathological, mostly symmetrical deposition of fat (which makes the body look swollen) that most often affects the lower extremities and almost exclusively occurs in women.