Edema or swelling occurs when a large amount of fluid accumulates in any part of the body. Body parts can also swell from injury or inflammation. This puffiness occurs in different areas of the body like skin, especially on the hands, arms, ankles, legs, and feet. However, it can also affect the muscles, bowels, lungs, eyes, and brain. Depending on the location and cause, swelling can be of various types viz peripheral edema, pedal edema etc.
Symptoms of swelling depends on the amount of swelling and location of the swell. Small area inflammations, like that from a mosquito bite, do not have any specific symptoms. Otherwise a large allergic reaction like one from a bee sting will cause pain and limit arm movement.
Pedal edema, especially due to fluid accumulation, can make the legs heavier and restrict locomotion. People with pulmonary edema or swelling will run out if oxygen, feel breathlessness and show low oxygen level in the blood. Other symptoms include pits on the skin, abnormal size etc.
The duration of swelling depends on the underlying cause. Swelling caused by injury may last for 5 to 7 days. However, swelling resulting from an illness usually subsides with the medical condition.
Swelling is a condition that occurs when there is an inflammation or accumulation of fluid in skin, tissue or any other body part. Swelling is known as Oedema as per the medical terms. Oedema can be caused by medications, infections, or pregnancy. It can also result from an injury or an underlying medical condition such as liver cirrhosis, congestive heart failure etc.
The physician may ask certain questions pertaining to your medical history. He or she will also conduct a physical test to determine the cause of the swelling. The physician may push the swollen area gently for a few seconds to see if a dimple is formed. If it is formed, then the physician may want to conduct a few more tests to figure out the cause of oedema.
These tests may include:
Depending on the cause, the tests might reveal blockages in blood vessels, inflammation in tissues or muscles, fracture, fluid retention etc.
Swelling is the body's biological response to inflammation that usually eases on its own. Nevertheless, you can follow the below-mentioned measures to reduce swelling:
For swelling resulting from an injury, you can follow the R-I-C-E protocol. It stands for Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. Rest means you should take proper rest in order to reduce the pressure exerted on the swollen area. Ice implies applying a cold bandage on the swollen area to help it heal faster.
Compression refers to the use of compression socks or garments to reduce pressure on the swollen area. Keeping the swollen area elevated helps limit the blood flow and restricts the pressure on it.
Treatment of swelling will depend on the cause of the same. A Medicinal drugs are also used to provide relief from the pain and lower the swelling. Itching and swelling caused by rashes or hives can also be cured by the use of antihistamines. Also, creams and lotions can be used on doctor advice.
After diagnosis, doctors direct the treatment on the basis of the cause. For instance:
Pain reliever like ibuprofen or naproxen sodium are also prescribed when the swelling is painful. Apart from this, topical medications and antihistamines are also used to relieve inflammation or swelling. Also, ample rest with other techniques may be used to cure swelling. Minor swellings go away on its own and thus, do not need any medical treatment.
People should seek immediate medical assistance or care if there be signs of a blood clot, such as, Pain and redness in the knee, thigh, calf, or groin. There can also be other signs like fever, increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness and pus secretion from those parts. Any recurring chest pain, shortness of breath and pedal swelling that does not fade away should be shown to a doctor without delay.
Any person with no severe symptoms of swelling do not need to consult a doctor. For instance, swelling and redness caused by an ant bite will go away after some time. This does not require special medical care. Also, people may at times find their legs swollen when sitting for a long time.
If this goes away after some time, then there is no need to visit a doctor. Also, temporary breathlessness and panting due to some hectic work will go away itself. In such instances, people do not need any medical treatment or care.
There are certain side effects of the treatment of swelling or edema. When radiation therapy or chemotherapy is used, patients tend to develop counter effects besides removal of the cause of swelling. Chemotherapy can cause hair fall, vomiting etc. Radiation therapy can cause skin irritation, fatigue, nausea and vomiting bowel incontinence and the inability to control bowel movements.
Surgical operations, if not done carefully, can leave behind part of the tumor. This can later on cause greater complications, including secondary cancer. Use of antihistamines is also known to have some side effects in people.
After treatment, it is important to follow doctor’s advices meticulously. Regular exercises will help shrink the swell faster. Also, using cold compression and massage or physical therapy can be helpful. Patients must take care and be cautious. If any signs or symptoms of swelling recur, they should immediately consult the doctor again.
Any minor swelling, such as those caused by ant bites, fade away in few hours or one or two days. Minor other swells take around three days to a week’s duration to heal. Swells which are treated by surgical operations get cured after the treatment.
Otherwise, application of cold suppress and other methods to shrink the swell takes around a week’s time to go away completely. Swells caused due to major reasons, like kidney problems or breathing issues, take a little longer time, approximately months to cure.
Depending on the cause, measures to prevent swelling vary. If the swelling is caused by an illness or medical condition, then it can be relieved by taking medications for that particular condition.
However, you can also make the following changes to your lifestyle to reduce the likelihood of swelling:
Treatment cost of swelling varies hugely. Minor swells which can be cured with just medicines and topical ointments are inexpensive while those which include surgeries are more costly.
General consultation fees vary from place to place and individuals, approximating Rs. 500 /-. Cost for surgeries like chemotherapy and radiation therapy can be huge, near about Rs 5,00,000 or even more.
Treatment for swelling or edema is mostly permanent. Surgeries and non surgical methods to treat swell cure the main cause and in most cases, these do not recur. However, sometimes, if part of the tumor remains in the body even after surgery, then it may swell back again with greater complications. Signs and symptoms, if found to recur, should be met with a doctor.
Swelling caused due to major issues, like that of kidney issues or cardiac issues do not have any alternative remedy apart from the routine medical treatment. But, minor swells, like those caused due to sprain, can be cured by home remedies.
The injured and swelled portion must be kept at rest, and elevated to avoid further puffiness. It should be given cold or ice compression. Intake of magnesium supplements and lowering sodium content will aid to heal the swells faster. Taking Epsom salt bath or soaking the injured swelled region in a tonic bath will prevent further swelling.