Edema – When the swelling does not go down

If fluid is collected in, for example, legs or feet, a swelling that does not result, it is called edema. Edema is relatively common and can affect both women and men.

There are different types of edema that have varying symptoms and affect the body in different ways. It is important to have knowledge of the different types and at the same time pay attention to whether you have a swelling that does not want to bring with it.

Accumulation of fluid

Everyone can swell in the legs, feet or fingers every now and then. This may be due to heat or to sitting still for a long time as during a flight or a longer drive. Swelling can also occur if you stand up for a longer period and this type of swelling often goes down after a while. If it does not, but the swelling persists, it may be the matter of having suffered some type of edema. Edema is the result of fluid being collected in the legs and feet for some reason.

A common form of edema is lymphedema, characterized by the fact that the first sign of being hit is a swelling that does not go away. Now, not all swellings are lymphedema, cardiovascular disease, kidney disease or endocrine disease can all give rise to lymphedema-like symptoms. Insect bites, surgery, high blood pressure and larynx can in turn cause swelling that develops into lymphedema. Although all body parts can be affected by lymphedema, it is most commonly found in the arms or legs.

Different types of lymphedema

There are different types of lymphedema; primary, secondary and lipolymph edema. Primary lymphedema means that there is an innate malfunction in the lymphatic system that can develop either due to external factors such as damage and infections or to internal like hormonal changes such as puberty, pregnancy or menopause. Secondary lymphedema is first and foremost about external trauma such as surgery, radiotherapy, accidents or causes that destroy lymph nodes and lymph vessels. It is not uncommon for it to take a long time, up to several years, for you to notice that you have lymphedema. Lipolymph edema can be developed in people who already have lip edema. The development will occur if the lymphatic system is damaged, which occurs at a late stage of lip edema.

Common symptoms of lymphedema are a feeling of weight and tension, a tingling sensation like the body part sleeping, pain and reduced mobility. It can be found that there is swelling that comes and goes during exercise or other physical activity and there is also redness and a warming feeling in the affected body part. The lymphedema is divided into three stages where, at the initial, you do not notice anything, even though the lymphatic system no longer functions normally. Then there is swelling, edema, which at this point can go back to treatment. If you do not treat edema, there is a risk that the swelling becomes permanent and there is no treatment today if you have suffered from lymphedema.

Early treatment to recommend

If you receive early treatment, the problems with lymphedema are reduced and usually it is easier to treat lymphedema if you seek early treatment. If you have had swelling you should let a doctor check these, even if it does not cause any problems without treatment, the swelling is usually greater. If the lymphedema is detected already when the first symptoms have occurred, it may suffice to use compression socks that have a higher pressure than support socks. The compression stocking increases the pressure on the tissue and helps to reduce the swelling. It is important that you get a compression that is adapted, if the pressure is too low or high it either does not help or only worsens the situation. You quickly learn how to handle the compression socks so you know how to use them for best effect and results. Although it is called “socks”, there are compression socks for, for example, hands and torso and can be ordered to measure. The number of socks you need is individual and the cost varies from county to county.

Contrary to what was previously thought, physical activity does not impair lymphedema in the arm, on the contrary. Physical cavity, especially when sitting still for long periods of time, is important and regular breaks may occur when moving and especially large movements with the arm or leg. For safety reasons, it is best to take professional help in the beginning to build up both the strength and capacity of the lymphatic system gradually. There are large individual differences depending on both muscle and lymphatic capacity. Some may find that, for example, strength training feels good, while others think it makes the lymphedema worse. It is good to know that the volume of fluid usually increases immediately after exercise or heavy moving work. But if you use the compression stocking the fluid decreases within a day, even in the area where you have lymphedema.

Hold the body part high

Resting the swollen body part in a high position is also good, but for the rest to have a really good effect it should be done for a longer period of time, for example during the night. If you have lymphedema in your arm you can rest your arm on a stable pillow and with lymphedema in your leg you can raise the foot end of the bed a few centimeters. If compression therapy does not produce enough results, there are other treatments. The most common options are manual lymphatic drainage and treatment with a so-called lymphatic pulsator.

You can see for yourself how big the lymphedema is by measuring the circumference at several different places on the arm or leg and comparing it to the healthy side. You can also take a skin crease between the thumb and forefinger and compare with the same area on the healthy side of the body. On the trunk or head it can be difficult to measure, but you can try to compare the thickness of skin folds.

Lip edema can be mistaken for obesity

Another form of edema is lip edema, a chronic disorder of the fatty tissue where the superficial smaller lymphatic vessels, blood vessels and nerves are affected. Lip edema is something that almost exclusively affects women and often breaks out during hormonal changes such as puberty, pregnancy and menopause. Because lip edema can cause the body’s fat cells to increase in size and you can increase in size over hips, thighs and buttocks, it is sometimes mistaken for obesity.

It also happens that you mix lip edema with lymph edema, but there is a clear difference, lip edema spreads symmetrically on both sides of the body. There are typical signs of lymphedema, many of which are physical. You can find that the upper body is narrower than the lower body, that there is cellulite or that you feel small hard fat balls under the skin. When touched, pain can be experienced and bruising can occur easily. It also happens that the swelling increases during the day and that the skin is cold in areas that are affected.

Physical activity good in lip edema

Since it is not a matter of obesity, lip edema does not disappear with exercise or by losing weight. There are various methods of treatment for lip edema, including wearing compression garments, that is, clothing that sits properly and which in turn helps the body to transport the edema that is formed. In healthcare there may be experienced staff who can help you choose the right types of compression clothing depending on your needs. In general, physical activity is good for health and there is no exception to lip edema.

On the other hand, it is important to find out how to work out because hard training can lead to increased fluid flow in the tissue area, which in turn can lead to increased swelling. Knowledge of how to take care of one’s body in connection with exercise is important, but with that said, there is nothing to stop one from exercising. Today, different treatment methods for lip edema are being researched, the most important thing is to talk to your doctor and find a solution that fits as it varies from person to person. The treatment is very similar to that recommended for lymphedema, but as mentioned earlier, lymphedema and lipedema are not the same and should therefore be assessed and treated based on which of the diagnoses you get.

Pay attention to all swelling

There is another form of edema, venous edema that first appears on the ankles and feet. In venous edema, the swelling is due to the venous system in the legs not functioning normally. The blood should not, with the help of flaps that close tightly inside the veins in the legs, retract as it circulates in the body. If the flaps are destroyed, the cause may be blood clots or wear and tear, the blood bounces back into the legs and there may be an edema that can cause discoloration of the skin, leg ulcers and lymphedema.

All edema can cause problems and limitations in everyday life and it is important to pay attention to whether there are swelling on the body. Early detection leads to early treatment, which improves the chances of edema being treatable. Edema needs to be taken care of and even if treatment is initiated you may need to make changes in life to improve the chances of getting rid of the edema.

You can ease the hassle through a few simple exercises. When you are at home you can lie in bed and raise your legs. For example, the legs rest on some pillows. This can cause the swelling to go down. Other good things are to exercise your legs. For example, it is good to be out and about. When you touch the legs, the fluid is pumped from the legs back to the heart. You can also buy support socks, these socks can facilitate a lot if you fly or sit very still.

4 tips for swollen feet:

  • When resting, place a pillow under your legs. In this way, the feet are in a higher position than the rest of the body.
  • Avoid sitting or standing still for extended periods.
  • Move. This is helpful as exercise stimulates blood circulation.
  • If you are overweight, try to lose some weight. Obesity and obesity reduce blood flow in the body.

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