Last Updated: Nov 08, 2021
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Swelling: Treatment, Procedure, Cost and Side Effects

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

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 depend 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 of oxygen, feel breathlessness and show low oxygen levels 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 does swelling feel like?

Swelling is a visible enlargement of the muscles, it usually occurs because of the build-up of the fluid in the infected region. swelling because of a feeling of discomfort and pain and limiting the motion of limbs.

Is swelling a sign of infection?

Swelling is caused by the leaking of blood vessel fluid into the surrounding tissue, this can happen on any part of the body. The cause of swelling is typically infection, pregnancy, medication, or an injury.

What causes swelling?

Swelling is a condition that occurs when there is an inflammation or accumulation of fluid in the skin, tissue, or any other body part. Swelling is known as Edema as per the medical terms. Edema 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.

Can Swelling go away on its own?

Swelling is a collection of body fluids or it may be related to tissue overgrowth. There may be different causes of the swelling. In most cases, the symptoms are mild and need not be treated or consulted with a doctor. Such conditions either get resolved on their own or maybe treated by application of some home remedies, which prove to be sufficient for managing the symptoms.

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:

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

When should you worry about swelling?

If the swelling lasts longer than 2 to 3 weeks or is chronic, it is advised to see a doctor. Swelling is the indication of an injury, hence, if the swelling persists then injury is still present. Sometimes swelling is accompanied by redness and blisters and makes it worse in case of a history of kidney, liver or heart disorders.

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.

Swelling in most of the cases when symptoms are mild does not need to be treated and go away spontaneously, while there are certain conditions and criteria when swelling seeks medical treatment under the supervision of a doctor.

Such conditions mainly include swelling in the face, arms, and other regions of the body that persist for a longer duration of time, swelling that occurs due to serious causes such as severe allergic reactions, autoimmune conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, certain medications, infections like cellulitis, burns, and inflammation.

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.

Does swelling go away on its own?

Mild to moderate swelling sometimes go away on their own with time, with the help of medication and home remedies. However, if the swelling is severe, along with pain and immobility the swelling may take some time to heal.

Does ice reduce swelling?

Ice helps to loosen the strained muscle which decreases the swelling and pain. Ice is effective in reducing pain and swelling as it constricts the blood vessels and decreases the circulation of blood in that region. Applying the ice pack for 15 to 20 minutes, four or more times a day can take down the swelling.

Does lemon water help edema?

Lemon water is helpful with edema as it flushes out the toxins and excess fluid from the body. Lemon is a good anti-inflammatory food that is rich in Vitamin C and antioxidants. Vitamin C helps repair the tissue damage while antioxidants help reduce the swelling.

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

Should I go to urgent care for Swelling?

Swelling is not a matter of concern as far as it is accompanied by mild symptoms. In such conditions, it doesn't need to be consulted with a doctor and can be controlled by home remedies or get resolved spontaneously. But some cases are a serious concern such as when the swelling arises as a result of severe allergic reactions i.e anaphylaxis, autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, certain medications, blood clot-related disorders like thrombophlebitis, infections like cellulitis, burns, and inflammation. Such conditions can cause severe complications and need immediate medical attention and care.

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 /-. The 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.

Will drinking more water help with edema?

Sometimes swelling is caused due to dehydration or extreme accumulation of fluids between cells. Therefore, drinking a sufficient amount of water during the day may help in bringing down the swelling. It is recommended to drink 8 to 10 glasses of water every day to get rid of water retention.

How do I reduce swelling naturally?

Some ways to reduce swelling naturally are:

  • Having a diet rich in anti-inflammatory food searches for cold-water fish, walnuts, flaxseed, turmeric, garlic, ginger.
  • Limit food with high carbohydrates such as white Rice, white flour, corn, refined sugar.
  • Lose weight as obesity causes inflammation.

Physical Exercises for the people suffering from Swelling:

Exercises are a key to a healthy body and healthier well-being. Some of the exercises which are preferred to do at home and aids in easing the symptoms of swelling are such as:

  • Walking - a minimum of 20 minutes of walking is necessary.
  • Bodyweight exercises including squats, push-ups, bridges, and plank.
  • Exercises for the betterment of mobility.
  • Cycling.
  • Yoga and breathing exercises including mountain pose, cat-cow pose, child's pose, etc.

What to eat in Swelling?

Foods are an important factor that affects the condition of swelling. Hence it is important to know about the specific food items that would be anti-inflammatory in action and significantly reduce swelling. Some of those food items include fresh fruits such as strawberries, blueberries, cherries, and oranges, fresh vegetables such as spinach, kale, and collards, tomatoes, olive oil, nuts like almonds, and walnuts and fatty fishes such as salmon.

What not to eat in Swelling?

Since food is an important factor to be considered in case of swelling, it is important for us to know about the food items that act as triggering factors for inflammation. Some of those foods include the following:

  • Refined carbohydrates which include white bread and pastries.
  • Fried food items such as french fries.
  • beverages such as soda and sugar-sweetened drinks.
  • Red meat as well as processed meat.
  • Margarine and lard.
Summary: Swelling is a condition that arises due to the collection of body fluids or in some cases, it may be related to tissue overgrowth. Swelling is not a matter of concern in mild cases but some cases may be considered serious such as when the swelling arises as a result of severe allergic reactions, autoimmune diseases, certain medications, blood clot-related disorders, infections like cellulitis, burns, and inflammation. Some diet and lifestyle changes work well in the recovery process.
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