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What is edema?

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Quick Answer

Edema is the medical term for swelling that occurs as the body responds to injury or inflammation, according to WebMD. Edema is caused by medications, infections, pregnancy and a variety of medical issues.

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Full Answer

Edema occurs when small blood vessels release fluid into nearby tissues, causing the tissue to swell, notes WebMD. Many types of injuries cause it, such as twisted ankles, bee stings or infections. Symptoms vary widely among patients and depend on the amount of edema, location and severity of the injury and include tense skin, pain, limited movement, skin ulcers and difficulty breathing.

A doctor who performs a physical exam and compiles a complete medical history can diagnose the condition and fully explain the causes, explains Mayo Clinic. In addition to a physical exam, the doctor may order X-rays, ultrasound exams, blood tests or urine analysis to further discover the cause.

Mild cases of edema generally go away on their own, states Mayo Clinic. Healing is usually faster if the patient raises the affected limb higher than the heart. In more severe cases, the patient may be treated with diuretic drugs, such as Lasix, to help the body get rid of excess fluid. For cases that require long-term treatment, treating the underlying cause of the swelling is the primary way to manage the condition.

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