Oedema (also spelled edema) is swelling caused when fluid leaks out of the body's capillaries. (The capillaries are the body's smallest blood vessels.) The fluid builds up and gets trapped in the tissues around the leaking blood vessels. This causes swelling. If there is enough swelling, edema can be seen from outside of the skin.
Pulmonary edema is fluid in the lungs. Pulmonary edema is dangerous because having fluid in the lungs makes breathing difficult. If pulmonary edema gets bad enough, a person can drown in the fluid.
Signs and Symptoms
- Swelling or puffiness right under the skin
- Skin that looks stretched or shiny
- Changes in skin color
- Aching arms and legs
- Stiff joints
- Weight gain or weight loss
- Blood pressure and pulse rate that are higher than normal
- Eating too much salt
- Staying still for long periods of time
- Side effects from some medicines
- Congestive heart failure (CHF). In CHF, the heart does not pump hard enough to send blood throughout the body. This can cause blood to back up in the arms and legs (causing peripheral edema). It can also cause fluid to back up in the lungs (pulmonary edema).
- Liver damage (cirrhosis). Liver damage can cause fluid to back up in the abdomen (ascites) and the legs.
- Kidney problems. The kidneys' job is to remove extra fluid from the blood. If the kidneys are not doing this job, the fluid builds up in other parts of the body.
- Deep vein thrombosis (DVT). A DVT is a blood clot inside one of the deep veins in the body, usually deep inside the legs. Edema in the legs is one sign of DVT.
- Varicose veins.
If edema is not very serious, it often goes away on its own. If a person has mild edema in an arm or leg, they can often make edema go away quicker by keeping the arm or leg raised above the level of the heart.
If edema is caused by a disease, that disease needs to be treated.