Edema

Swelling caused by excess fluid in body tissues.

PubMed Health Glossary
(Source: NIH - National Cancer Institute)

Causes and Signs of Edema

Edema means swelling. The condition called edema arises when part of the body becomes swollen because fluid gathers in the tissue. It most commonly affects the arms and legs. That is called peripheral edema.

Common early signs of peripheral edema include:

  • A full or heavy feeling in an arm or leg
  • The arm or leg starts to look swollen
  • When you press the swelling, it leaves a dent
  • Your clothing or jewellery starts to feel tight and uncomfortable
  • A tight or warm feeling in the skin
  • Less movement or flexibility in the affected joints
  • Tautness or even pain in the affected area

If you have a problem with edema, your doctor could do a variety of checks to find out what is causing it. This is important because it could be caused by many different things.

Edema can be:

  • a mild and temporary water retention problem that goes away by itself,
  • a symptom of a serious disease that needs treatment,
  • a condition that...

Read more about Edema

What works? Research summarized

Evidence reviews

Surgical decompression for cerebral oedema in acute ischaemic stroke

About four‐fifths of strokes are due to blockage of an artery in the brain. When the artery is blocked, part of the brain is damaged, this is called a cerebral infarct. If a large artery is blocked the area of brain damage can be large. About 24 to 48 hours after a large infarct the brain can swell, causing a dangerous rise of pressure inside the head. Surgery to remove some of the skull bone over the swollen area of brain reduces the pressure. Results from recent clinical trials showed that surgery reduced the risk of death. However, survivors were left with moderate to severe disability requiring help in their daily life activities. These results only apply to people 60 years of age or younger.

Non‐invasive positive pressure ventilation for cardiogenic pulmonary oedema

Acute heart failure has a high incidence in the general population and may lead to  the accumulation of fluid in the lungs, which is called acute cardiogenic pulmonary oedema (ACPE). This review aimed to determine the effectiveness and safety of non‐invasive positive pressure ventilation (NPPV) (continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) or bilevel NPPV) plus standard medical care, compared with standard medical care alone in adults with ACPE. We included 32 studies (2916 participants) of generally low or uncertain risk of bias. Results from randomised controlled trials indicate that NPPV can significantly reduce mortality as well as the need for endotracheal intubation rate, the number of days spent in the intensive care unit without increasing the risk of having a heart attack during or after treatment. We identified fewer adverse events with NPPV use (in particular progressive respiratory distress and neurological failure [coma]) when compared with standard medical care. In our comparison of CPAP and bilevel NPPV, CPAP may be considered the first option in selection of NPPV due to more robust evidence for its effectiveness and safety and lower cost compared with bilevel NPPV. The evidence to date on the potential benefit of NPPV in reducing mortality is entirely derived from small‐trials and further large‐scale trials are needed.

Anti‐vascular endothelial growth factor for diabetic macular oedema

Diabetic macular oedema (DMO) is a common complication of diabetic retinopathy. The retina at the macula thickens and this can cause gradual loss of central vision. Grid or focal laser photocoagulation is effective in treating DMO and has been used for several years, but vision is rarely improved.

See all (608)

Summaries for consumers

Surgical decompression for cerebral oedema in acute ischaemic stroke

About four‐fifths of strokes are due to blockage of an artery in the brain. When the artery is blocked, part of the brain is damaged, this is called a cerebral infarct. If a large artery is blocked the area of brain damage can be large. About 24 to 48 hours after a large infarct the brain can swell, causing a dangerous rise of pressure inside the head. Surgery to remove some of the skull bone over the swollen area of brain reduces the pressure. Results from recent clinical trials showed that surgery reduced the risk of death. However, survivors were left with moderate to severe disability requiring help in their daily life activities. These results only apply to people 60 years of age or younger.

Non‐invasive positive pressure ventilation for cardiogenic pulmonary oedema

Acute heart failure has a high incidence in the general population and may lead to  the accumulation of fluid in the lungs, which is called acute cardiogenic pulmonary oedema (ACPE). This review aimed to determine the effectiveness and safety of non‐invasive positive pressure ventilation (NPPV) (continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) or bilevel NPPV) plus standard medical care, compared with standard medical care alone in adults with ACPE. We included 32 studies (2916 participants) of generally low or uncertain risk of bias. Results from randomised controlled trials indicate that NPPV can significantly reduce mortality as well as the need for endotracheal intubation rate, the number of days spent in the intensive care unit without increasing the risk of having a heart attack during or after treatment. We identified fewer adverse events with NPPV use (in particular progressive respiratory distress and neurological failure [coma]) when compared with standard medical care. In our comparison of CPAP and bilevel NPPV, CPAP may be considered the first option in selection of NPPV due to more robust evidence for its effectiveness and safety and lower cost compared with bilevel NPPV. The evidence to date on the potential benefit of NPPV in reducing mortality is entirely derived from small‐trials and further large‐scale trials are needed.

Anti‐vascular endothelial growth factor for diabetic macular oedema

Diabetic macular oedema (DMO) is a common complication of diabetic retinopathy. The retina at the macula thickens and this can cause gradual loss of central vision. Grid or focal laser photocoagulation is effective in treating DMO and has been used for several years, but vision is rarely improved.

See all (106)

More about Edema

Photo of an adult

Also called: Oedema, Dropsy, Hydrops, Water retention, Fluid retention, Edematous, Oedematus

Keep up with systematic reviews on Edema:

Create RSS

PubMed Health Blog...

read all...