Edema swelling can interfere with daily activities. There are alternative forms of care that can be beneficial for this condition.
What is Edema?
Edema means swelling. It can affect particular areas or the whole body. It is the body’s response to inflammation or injury, infections, medical problems, pregnancy, or medications. In edema, the blood vessels leak fluid into the tissues, which causes the swelling. It is a common allergic reaction, and it can also occur in heart, liver, and kidney diseases. Cerebral edema affects the brain, such as when head trauma occurs. It may also come from low blood sodium, high altitude, and tumors. Cerebral edema can lead to confusion, headaches, or coma. Many medications trigger edema, such as corticosteroids (prednisone), NSAIDs (ibuprofen, naproxen), and others.1 There are two types of edema: cutaneous (pitting), where pressing into the swelled area leaves an indent, and the non-pitting form. In the latter, the indentation doesn’t persist, such as in lymphedema. The type caused by malnutrition is kwashiorkor, which is due to protein insufficiency and low caloric intake.2 The most common forms of edema affect the legs, ankles, feet, hands, and arms. Typical medical treatments are to take medications to remove fluid and to reduce salt in the diet. If edema has a disease underlying its cause, that disease will also need to be treated.3 Diuretics are a medication used to treat edema. They work with the kidneys to help remove excess fluid. Because diuretics cause a loss of potassium, patients need to consume high potassium foods, such as potatoes, tomatoes, orange juice, and bananas.4 Home remedies for edema include moving and performing exercises for the muscles so that they can pump the excess fluid to the heart, elevation of the affected part of the body, massage and compression garments (stockings, gloves, or sleeves), and limiting salt intake.5
There may be nutritional options for patients with edema. If food allergens are suspected, elimination diets could be useful. B-vitamins and iron may be especially helpful if patients are taking diuretics. Natural diuretics can be found in produce such as beets, pineapple, leafy greens, asparagus, pumpkin, onion, and garlic. Antioxidant foods, such as berries, squash, and peppers, may also be useful. Avoiding red meats, refined sugars, alcohol, tobacco, and trans fatty acids are also part of a healthy diet. There are some herbal remedies that can help, such as bilberry, dandelion, and grape seed extract. Acupuncture may be a beneficial therapy for improving fluid balance.6 Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD) and Lymph Drainage Therapy (LDT) are special massages that help to drain the lymphatic system. They are helpful therapies for pedal edema and lymphedema. Generalized edema should be treated differently, because it is likely due to a systemic cause.7 Chiropractors can also work with edema. Cryotherapy (ice packs), diathermy (heating deep tissues), and ultrasound, are chiropractic therapies that can treat edema.8
Get more information about lymphedema.