What is Edema: Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention - Landmark Senior Living


Mar 15 2019

What is Edema: Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention

Post by: Joe Gilmore

As we age, we become more and more likely to be affected by a number of health problems. For example, aging increases the risk of dementia, falls, arthritis, and more. Along with those serious problems, there is also symptoms from underlying diseases that can prove to be an issue. For example, edema is a body tissue problem that many


What is Edema?

A doctor writing down symptoms on a clipboard for a patient who is experiencing Edema.

Edema is a skin condition that is characterized by excessive fluid trapped in the body’s tissue. Edema can occur in any part of the body but is especially prevalent in the hands, arms, feet, ankles, and legs.


The symptoms of edema are fairly standard and consistent for people who have it. Signs and symptoms for edema include:

  • Swelling or puffiness of the tissue under the skin, especially true for the legs and arms
  • Stretched and shiny skin
  • Skin that will retain dimples after being pressed for several seconds
  • Increased abdominal size

However, the symptoms can become more serious and may require immediate medical attention. For example, if you are experiencing shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, or chest pain, you should see your doctor immediately, as these can be signs of pulmonary edema which requires quick treatment.

Likewise, you may need to see a doctor if you are experiencing swelling or pain that won’t go away following a prolonged period of sitting like on a car ride or flight. This may be a sign of a blood clot deep in your vein that can lead to more serious complications.

If left untreated, edema can lead to increasingly painful swelling, difficulty walking, stiffness, increased risk of infection, tissue scarring, decreased circulation, increased risk of skin ulcers, and more.


Edema occurs when the tiny blood vessels in your body leak fluid and the fluid eventually builds up in the surrounding tissues, leading to swelling.

Mild cases of edema can result from staying in one position for too long and eating too much salty food.

As mentioned before, edema is the result of a medication, or underlying disease such as congestive heart failure, kidney disease, or cirrhosis of the liver. Medications like high blood pressure medication, anti-inflammatory drugs, steroid drugs, estrogen, and more can all result in edema. When edema is a sign of an underlying disease, the disease itself will require separate treatment.


To diagnose the problem properly and help learn the cause of the issue, doctors will perform a physical exam and inquire about medical history. In some cases, tests like X-rays, ultrasounds, blood tests, and more may be required.

Mild edemas will generally go away on their own, especially if you do things to help the process like raise the affected area higher than your heart.

However, more severe edemas will sometimes be treated with drugs to help the body expel excess fluid through the urine.

For long-term management of edemas, the process typically focuses on treating the underlying cause of the swelling. If the edema is a result of medication use, a doctor may just adjust your prescription or use an alternative medication that won’t cause or exacerbate the problem.

At-Home Care

There are a few home remedies for dealing with the problem that you can try at home. However, before trying these self-care techniques it is best to talk with a medical professional about which ones are right for you.

A few at home methods for improving or alleviate edemas include:

Movement — Moving the muscles in the affected parts of your body, especially in the legs can help to pump excess fluid back toward the heart and reduce swelling.

Elevation — It can be helpful to hold the swollen part of the body above the heart multiple times throughout the day.

Massage — Massaging the affected area toward the heart may help to move excess fluid out of the are

Compression — If one limb specifically is affected, it may be best to invest in compression clothing to help prevent further swelling

Reduced Salt — Salt can increase fluid retention and worsen edema, limiting salt consumption can help alleviate these problems

Again, it is best to speak with a doctor before trying to fix the problem on your own.


There are a few preventative methods for edema to avoid the problem altogether. For example, exercise is one of the best things you can do for your body to stay healthy and regulate your weight all throughout life. Exercise becomes even more important as we age. Exercise can help to prevent edema as it will increase circulation. However, it is best to build your workouts up, for your first few exercises, going on a short walk or maybe a jog may be best.

Another way to help you avoid edemas is to wear loose clothing and shoes that are not too tight and when you sit or lie down, raise your feet with a stool or pillow.

Also, as mentioned before, limiting the salt in your diet and avoiding foods like chips, bacon, ham and other things can help to prevent fluid retention in the body.

In Conclusion

Aging can lead to a number of increased health risks, one such risk is edema. Edema is characterized as excessive fluid in the body tissue. If not treated, edema can lead to problems like difficulty walking and increased risk of infection. Luckily, there are many ways to deal with edema, and if the problem is only a mild one it will likely go away on its own. Regardless, some ways to treat the issue is to elevate your limbs, exercise, and limit salt intake.

If the problem is especially serious, it may be best to enlist the help of a caregiver or move to an assisted living facility. At Landmark Senior Living, we provide our patients with around-the-clock care and keep them happy with social activities during their time at Landmark. If you would like more information about our facilities or would like a complimentary walkthrough, please reach out to our admissions team and visit our website.


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