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Last Updated: Jul 08, 2020
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Swelling: Treatment, Procedure, Cost and Side Effects

About Symptoms Causes Diagnosis Natural ways Treatment Side effects Post-treatment guidelines Recovery Prevention Cost Results Alternatives

What is swelling?

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.

What are the symptoms of swelling?

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.

How long does swelling last?

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.

What causes swelling?

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.

How is swelling diagnosed?

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:

  • Urine analysis
  • Blood test
  • X-ray
  • Ultrasound
  • MRI
  • An X-ray
  • An electrocardiogram

Depending on the cause, the tests might reveal blockages in blood vessels, inflammation in tissues or muscles, fracture, fluid retention etc.

How to reduce swelling?

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:

  • Drink plenty of water
  • Reduce salt in meals
  • Wear compression socks
  • Massage your feet regularly
  • Eat a diet rich in potassium and magnesium
  • Soak the swollen area in epsom salt bath for 20-25 minutes
  • Lose weight

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.

How is swelling treated?

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:

  • The physician may prescribe diuretics if the swelling is caused by a medical condition such as congestive heart failure.
  • If medical condition such as rheumatoid arthritis is the cause behind swelling, then treatment mainly involves management and prevention of the condition.
  • Swelling or edema which is caused due to injuries will require treatment of the root cause. This may involve bone resetting, a cast, or surgery to repair the injured area.
  • Swelling due to tumor or abscess will require surgical operations to remove it and then lessen the swelling. Tumor or abscess can be removed by surgery and thus, swelling can be removed.
  • In case the cause cannot be removed by surgical operations, Doctors may use radiation or chemotherapy to shrink the swelling.
  • Itching and swelling caused by rashes or hives can also be cured by the use of antihistamines.

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.

Who is eligible for the 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.

Who is not eligible for the treatment?

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.

Are there any side effects?

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.

What are the post-treatment guidelines?

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.

How long does it take to recover?

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.

How is swelling prevented?

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:

  • By engaging in regular physical activity
  • Keeping yourself hydrated throughout the day
  • Limiting intake of salt as part of your diet
  • Quitting smoking
  • Ensure that you don't keep your feet hanging for long durations. Get up and take a walk frequently

What is the price of the treatment in India?

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.

Are the results of the treatment permanent?

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.

What are the alternatives to the treatment?

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.

Popular Questions & Answers

Am from hyderabad. Am 29 years old. Sir actually I don't know it's lump or cyst on a right testicle. Its not paining n no other symptoms. I don't smoke r drink. Scrotum everything is fine .there is no swellings .what it can be?

MD - Obstetrtics & Gynaecology, FCPS, DGO, Diploma of the Faculty of Family Planning (DFFP)
Gynaecologist, Mumbai
Most of the medical problems need personally taking detailed medical history and examination with the need for reports sometimes so meet concerned doctor- general surgeon or urogenital surgeon.

What will happen if I use revize 0.04 percent cream whole day long and in the night too in more amount? As my cream is expiring soon.

DNB (Dermatology), MBBS, Diploma in Trichology - Cosmetology
Dermatologist, Hyderabad
Hi! revize 0.04 % is a tretinoin cream which has multiple uses and indications in dermatology. However, if used for a long period of time for twice a day, will be harsh on the face and can cause irritation in sensitive skin and can cause dryness a...

I sex with my bf but he didn't through serm inside me he give me unwanted 72 after 12 hours he still thing about pregnancy I got my first period 4 days late and second after one month but periods is light and 3rd periods is normal as it is but I have swelling in my belly I test pregnancy 4 time but its negative can you please explain me what is the problem it pregnant are not. I am so glad ask me what is the mean problem.

MD - Obstetrtics & Gynaecology, FCPS, DGO, Diploma of the Faculty of Family Planning (DFFP)
Gynaecologist, Mumbai
To understand the problem you need to consult gynecologist. As far as pregnancy is confirmed from your history and tests there is no pregnancy and if you want to confirm may do blood test serum hcg-beta.

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