Oedema is the accumulation of excess fluid in part of the body, which in turn causes swelling in that body part. The ankles, feet and legs are most commonly affect by oedema. The calves and thighs of the legs can be affected as well. This is called peripheral oedema. Older adults and pregnant women are high risk for oedema.
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Congestive Heart Failure
Congestive heart failure can cause oedema in the legs. This is a dangerous condition and requires medical care. Failure of the left side of the heart causes fluid to build up in the lungs. When the right side fails, excess fluid causes the legs to swell.
Chronic Lung Conditions
Chronic lung conditions, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), cause kidney or liver failure. Without either one of these organs functioning properly the body has a limited way of excreting fluids. These fluids tend to accumulate in the lowest points in the body including the legs.
Poor Circulatory System
Chronic venous insufficiency causes a failure in pressure to push the fluid up and out of the legs. Blood and fluid travels down into the legs and becomes trapped inside. Blood clots, leg infections and varicose veins can also cause oedema.
Allergic reactions can cause swelling in several parts of the body. Insect stings and food allergies can trigger this reaction. The body reacts adversely to the histamines that are released. If the swelling encompasses the entire body, it can cause the inability to breathe.
Side Effects of Medication
Certain medications can cause oedema. These include calcium channel-blockers for high blood pressure, steroids and antidepressants. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen that reduces swelling can occasionally have the reverse affect in some people.
Standing or sitting for long periods of time can decrease circulation pressure and cause oedema in the legs. Shift positions every hour to prevent this. A diet with too much sodium will cause the body to retain fluid. This fluid is often stored in the feet, ankles and legs. Pregnancy can put pressure on the vena cava, which is the major blood vessel that returns blood from the legs to the heart, as the uterus grows to accommodate the developing foetus.
Seek emergency medical help as soon as possible if you are suddenly short of breath, have chest pain and experience swelling in your legs or abdomen. This includes a weight gain of 0.907 to 1.36 Kilogram in one day and have little or no urine output. These are all symptoms that you have something more than typical oedema. Contact your care provider immediately if your legs swell and you have liver disease or are pregnant.
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