By Alyssa Parker –
Is Edema a Symptom of an Underlying Medical Condition?
Does your edema start the day out as painless swelling that progresses throughout the day, leading to a sensation of heaviness in the limb, notably in hot weather or in the evening time? If so, your edema may be a symptom of an underlying medical condition.
Some of the most common conditions where edema is a symptom include venous insufficiency, post operative trauma, infection, and lymphedema. Some physicians may overlook the cause of your swelling and treat it with a diuretic. Swelling in a limb is due to the excessive amount of fluid in your cell’s tissues or organs. Finding the origin of the edema is vital to getting the proper medical care. Diuretics may be useless and harmful over time if your edema is a symptom of chronic venous insufficiency or lymphedema. Diuretics draw fluid from your venous system that your body must have in order to balance the continual fluid deposit from your arterial capillaries; if the needed interstitial fluid is not present because you are taking a diuretic, this will only aggravate your lymphatic system which may lead to additional fluid retention.
The Role of Your Circulatory System
One of the main roles of your circulatory system is balancing the fluids in your body, also known as homeostasis. Interruption to your circulatory system that causes inflammation can be from a minor surgery, injury, infection, cancer radiation, or hereditary. Many patients with minor symptoms of swelling, inflammation, pain, or a feeling of heaviness overlook this as temporary and will reside with time. Lymphedema is a degenerative condition which means it will worsen over time. Lymphedema can occur in any region of the body where your lymphatic system has been interrupted. The most common areas are in the legs and arms.
Lymphedema and Chronic Venous Insufficiency
After having a surgical procedure, cancer or non-cancer related (example: hysterectomy or gallbladder removal), it may take months or years for Lymphedema to manifest because of its slow progression. It is imperative that Lymphedema is treated quickly and effectively, regardless of the severity. Complications dramatically decrease when treatment is started in the earliest stage of Lymphedema. When left untreated, common complications include cellulitus or lymphangitis, and skin changes, such as skin thickening, restricted movement of a limb, or chronic wounds. Aside from surgical procedures and radiotherapy for cancer, other known triggers include vein stripping, peripheral vascular surgery, trauma, inflammation, infection, and insect bites.
Chronic Venous Insufficiency (CVI) is another condition that causes swelling in the legs along with open wounds. CVI occurs when the valves in the veins that normally channel the blood to the heart become damaged which then leads to pooling of the blood in the lower extremities. Discoloration of the skin, referred to as hemosiderin staining, is identified by a reddish staining of the lower limb. From poor circulation, shallow wounds may develop due to the stagnant blood that would normally return to the heart. Symptoms vary but may include swelling, aching, itching or burning, varicose veins, infection, chronic venous ulcer, and decreased mobility.
There is no cure for Lymphedema or Chronic Venous Insufficiency. When your circulatory system has been damaged leading to one of these conditions, you must seek treatment to prevent further complications. Lymphedema is a degenerative condition which means it will only get worse over time without treatment. A widely recognized and highly effective treatment is using a compression pump. This is a safe and effective way to assist your body’s circulatory system in moving the excess fluid which has accumulated in the limb and can cause painful swelling, non-healing wounds, heaviness, and discomfort decreasing your mobility. The compression pump is a gentle massaging technique that compresses in a rhythmatic cycle, similar to that of a normally functioning lymphatic system that has not been damaged. This is a great treatment option for patients who have tried compression stockings, elevation, diuretics, or massage with little or no relief.
Questions to Ask Your Physician
This is where choosing a physician experienced in recognizing and treating Lymphedema or CVI is critical. Some good questions to ask your physician include:
- Does my family have a history of swelling (Hereditary Lymphedema)?
- Stemmer’s sign present?
- Pitting (push your finger into your skin and count how long it takes to return) or skin hardening?
- Hemosiderin staining (port wine skin stains or “red socks”) appear from the ankles down
- Traumatic injury or surgery potentially damaging Lymph nodes (Hip replacements, etc.)?
- Radiation to Lymph areas?
Remember ANY swelling is an indication of an overloaded Lymphatic system. The compression pump is approved by Medicare and covered by many commercial insurers. Actual coverage varies with individual plans. Acute Wound Care, LLC is a highly focused local provider of wound products and compression pumps working with select area physicians highly versed in this condition. For more information and articles on this topic, Google “Acute Wound Care” or visit www.AcuteWoundCare.com or call 239-949-4412 and speak with a specialist.