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How To Treat Edema In Seniors

by | May 17, 2024 | Caregivers Support, Caregiving, Community, Resources

Edema, also known as water retention, is a common condition in which the body’s water balance is disrupted, causing fluids to build up in tissues. While it can sometimes be mild and temporary, it could also indicate more serious health issues, such as heart failure or kidney damage. Edema occurs when excess fluid leaks out of blood vessels and accumulates in tissues, leading to swelling and puffiness. You might notice bloating, heaviness, or discomfort, particularly in the legs and arms. Edema can also affect other body parts like the brain, eyes, lungs, and abdomen, posing potential health risks.


What Causes Edema?

External factors like pressure changes, prolonged inactivity, high sodium intake, or certain medications can trigger edema. Internal factors such as genetics, hormonal changes, or underlying health conditions like heart or kidney disorders may also contribute.


Types of Edema

Different types of edema affect various body parts and can indicate specific health conditions.

1.   Pedal Edema

   – Causes swelling in the legs, ankles, and feet.

   – Commonly linked to factors like gravity, menopause, or medication side effects.

   – Could signal more serious issues such as deep vein thrombosis or heart failure.

2.   Periorbital Edema

   – Results in puffiness around the eyes.

   – Often due to gravity or factors like infections or allergies.

3.   Cerebral Edema

   – Involves fluid retention in the brain, potentially caused by head trauma or conditions like stroke or diabetes.

   – Can lead to severe complications if left untreated.

4.   Macular Edema

   – Affects vision due to fluid accumulation in the macula, impacting clarity and colour sensitivity.

   – Associated with eye inflammation, surgery, or conditions like diabetic retinopathy.

5.   Pulmonary Edema

   – Occurs when fluid builds up in the lungs, causing breathing difficulties.

   – Can result from heart issues, altitude sickness, or pneumonia.

6.   Ascites

   – Involves abdominal fluid retention, commonly associated with liver cirrhosis or cancer.

7.   Anasarca

   – Characterized by widespread, severe edema throughout the body, often indicative of critical health conditions like organ failure.


How To Treat Edema in Seniors?

Diagnosis typically involves a medical history review, physical examination, and possibly imaging or fluid tests. Treatment varies based on the underlying cause but may include lifestyle changes, medication, or therapeutic interventions.

1.   Use pressure

If edema affects an arm or leg, wearing compression stockings, sleeves, or gloves might help. These garments keep pressure on the limbs to prevent fluid from building up. Usually worn after the swelling goes down, they help prevent more swelling. 

2.   Move

Moving and using the muscles in the swollen part of the body, especially the legs, might help move fluid back toward the heart. A healthcare provider can discuss exercises that might reduce swelling.

3.   Raise

Hold the swollen part of the body above the level of the heart several times a day. Sometimes, raising the swollen area during sleep can be helpful. Stroking the affected area toward the heart using firm, but not painful, pressure might help move fluid out of that area.

4.   Protect

Keep the swollen area clean and free from injury. Use lotion or cream. Dry, cracked skin is more open to scrapes, cuts and infection. Always wear socks or shoes on the feet if that’s where the swelling usually is.

5.   Reduce salt intake

 A healthcare provider can talk about limiting salt. Salt can increase fluid buildup and worsen edema.


Preventing Water Retention

While some factors contributing to edema may be unavoidable, adopting healthy habits can help minimize its occurrence. Strategies like regular movement, massage, watching your diet, and taking supplements can support overall health and reduce the risk of edema.

If you suspect you’re experiencing edema, seek medical advice for proper evaluation and management. Seek professional healthcare services tailored to your needs, including diagnosis, treatment, and caregiving support. 

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Growing Needs grew out of our own encounters with caring for our aging parents and reflecting on the Growing Needs that we ourselves would face as we advance in years. We hope to build a community that will learn, share and contribute towards caring for the growing needs of our loved ones.

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