Are your feet or legs swollen? It might be caused by something simple, like being on your feet too long, or it could be caused by a health condition so serious that it requires emergency attention.
Edema is the medical term for fluid retention that causes swelling. Other symptoms include:
- Discomfort in the swollen area
- Difficulty moving the swollen body part
- Skin that is shiny and stretched over the swollen area
- Skin that when pressed does not quickly return to normal (see picture)
There are many possible causes of edema. It can be a side effect of certain medications, such as antidepressants, blood pressure medication, certain diabetes medications, NSAIDs, and steroids. But it can also be caused by the following 6 medical conditions:
1. Deep Vein Thrombosis
A deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a blood clot deep in the leg. DVTs are serious because they cause blockage in the vein (that’s what leads to the swelling), and because the clot is at risk of breaking loose and causing an obstruction in the heart or lungs.
It may be a DVT if:
the swelling only occurs in one leg, causes a change in color in the affected area, is painful, and is accompanied by low-grade fever.
A DVT is a medical emergency.
2. Kidney Disease
The role of the kidneys is to flush fluid out of the body. Edema, a buildup of fluid , is one of the symptoms of kidney disease.
It may be kidney disease if:
there is not only swelling, but also frequent urination, chest discomfort, shortness of breath, nausea, or confusion. In severe cases, kidney disease can cause seizures and coma.
Many of these symptoms, such as chest discomfort, shortness of breath, and nausea, are similar to the symptoms of a heart attack, and anyone experiencing them should consider it a medical emergency. Even if it is not a heart attack, it may be an advanced stage of kidney failure. These symptoms necessitate immediate medical attention.
3. Liver Disease
Liver disease can inhibit the production of albumin, a protein that prevents blood from leaking out of blood vessels.
It may be liver disease if:
the swelling is accompanied by dark urine, jaundice, bruising, fatigue, or abdominal tenderness.
Liver disease, while serious, is not a medical emergency. If someone suspects liver disease is causing their edema, they should see their doctor as soon as possible.
Lymphedema is caused by improper drainage of lymphatic fluid. It often occurs in people who have received treatment for cancer, particularly removal of at least one lymph node or radiation therapy.
If someone suspects lymphedema, they should see their doctor as soon as possible.
5. Right-Side Heart Failure
When the right side of the heart is unable to function properly, it cannot pump enough blood to the rest of the body. This can result in edema.
It may be heart failure if:
there is fluid retention throughout the body, as well as a rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, weakness, fatigue, coughing, wheezing, abdominal swelling, or difficulty concentrating.
Someone with heart failure should seek immediate medical attention.
6. Venous Insufficiency
The veins contain valves to prevent blood from backing up. Venous insufficiency refers to a condition in which those valves are not functioning.
It may be venous insufficiency if:
the swelling is accompanied by varicose veins, skin ulcers, flaking skin, and achiness.
Venous insufficiency, while serious, is not a medical emergency. Someone with venous insufficiency should see their doctor as soon as possible.
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Or better yet, come see for yourself. Contact us to schedule a tour by clicking here or by calling (372) 787-8100.