Most of us have had a little swelling at some point in our lives, maybe from an insect bite or a minor burn. But edema is different. Edema is a particular kind of swelling that happens when fluid gets trapped inside your body’s tissues.
Unlike temporary swelling, which typically clears up on its own, edema can be a sign of a serious medical problem, including problems with your kidneys. Finding out the cause of your edema is the first step in making sure you get the right treatment.
The team at Houston Kidney Specialists Center uses comprehensive patient exams and advanced diagnostic techniques to get to the root causes of edema in patients at our practices in Houston and Cypress, Texas. Here’s what they want you to know about edema.
Your body’s organs, tissues, and systems need a certain amount of fluid to work the way they’re supposed to. However, too much fluid can flood your body and interfere with normal functioning.
In addition to swelling, edema can cause other symptoms, such as:
- Puffiness in the affected area
- Shiny skin
- Dimpling or “pitting” when you press the area
When it happens in your feet, edema can make it hard to wear shoes or walk normally. In your ankles or wrists, the excess fluid can interfere with bending and flexing the joint. Edema in your hands can make it hard to perform certain tasks.
Edema often happens when one or more systems stop working, preventing fluid from being used or excreted. Common causes of edema include:
- Heart disease
- Liver disease
- Vascular disease
- Problems with your lymph system (lymphedema)
Edema can also be caused by some medications or by prolonged periods of sitting or standing. Often, edema happens because of a problem with your kidneys.
Kidney function and edema
Edema associated with kidney disease happens when your kidneys don’t filter your blood the way they’re supposed to. In healthy kidneys, tiny blood vessels (capillaries) filter out wastes and impurities and eliminate them through your urine. The filtered blood returns to circulation, while excess fluids are excreted in urine.
When you have kidney disease, the filtering process breaks down. Wastes are not completely removed from your blood, and extra fluid and sodium cause your tissues to swell. Kidney damage is also associated with low levels of a protein called albumin, which can also contribute to edema.
If you have edema, your doctor will check your kidney function using urinalysis and blood tests. Depending on the results, you might need other tests or diagnostic imaging using ultrasound or CT scans, so your doctor can see the structure of your kidneys.
If you have edema because of a problem with your kidneys, our team will develop a treatment plan aimed at improving kidney function and protecting your kidney health. They’ll also prescribe treatment to relieve your edema, which may include any of the following:
- Elevating your legs when possible
- Wearing compression garments
- Limiting your salt intake
- Taking medications to remove excess fluids
Kidney disease can be acute or chronic, and many patients need ongoing treatment to make sure their kidneys stay healthy.
Find out what’s causing your edema
Unless it becomes severe enough to compromise your circulation, edema itself is typically harmless. But the underlying issues that cause edema can be very serious — even life-threatening.
To learn what’s causing your edema and how the team at Houston Kidney Specialists Center can help you find the right treatment, call 281-429-8780 or book an appointment online today.