7 Symptoms of Edema

Edema is an abnormal swelling caused by the excessive pooling of fluids under the skin. There are several different kinds of edema based on the location of the excessive fluid retention, and the health risks associated with each type of edema also vary based on location. The two most commonly diagnosed forms are peripheral edema and pulmonary edema. Peripheral edema tends to form at the body’s lowest point of gravity.

For example, if a person is standing on their feet the problem may become noticeable at the ankles or on the tops of the feet. If a person is sitting down, the excess fluid will pool near the bottom of the spine or in the lower thigh. Pulmonary edema occurs in the lungs, and generally does not show any outward evidence of swelling. Again, the pooling of excess liquid is linked to gravity, so if a person lies down on their back the pulmonary fluid will spread along the backs of the lungs. If the person is sitting up, the fluid will collect in the bottom of the lungs. Mild edema symptoms can be managed by raising the swollen area above the level of the heart so that the fluid dissipates naturally. More severe edema can be treated with diuretics that reduce the amount of fluid the body produces.

1. Swelling

One of the first signs of edema is uncomfortable swelling. As fluid builds up between the skin and muscles, the area will enlarge and gain a puffy appearance. The skin develops a shiny surface and looks like it is being stretched as the fluid level increases. This can be caused by many factors, such as standing on your feet too long, eating large amounts of sodium, or not drinking enough water. This symptom is not always immediately noticeable, and it can reduce on its own as the body becomes rehydrated or the constant pressure of standing or sitting is relieved.

In some cases the amount of fluid collecting around the ankles or knees can become so severe that it is difficult to walk. Sometimes a person will lose feeling in their feet because the excess fluid dulls the nerves. Elevating the swollen area for a couple of hours so that the fluid can drain back into the body naturally can often relieve discomfort and reduce puffiness, especially in the feet and legs. Pulmonary edema also involves swelling, but it is typically not noticeable because the excess fluid collects in the lungs and their surrounding tissues. Internal edema is generally indicated by other symptoms that can alert a medical professional that fluid has collected in the lungs.