Signs & symptoms of the disease dropsy

Updated April 17, 2017

Dropsy, also called oedema, is a disorder in which your body's tissues swell with fluid. According to Medline Plus, it usually occurs in the legs, feet and ankles but can occur anywhere, even internally. It often affects pregnant women and older people. There are a number of potential causes as well as signs, symptoms and possible treatment options if you suffer from dropsy.

Signs & Symptoms

The first sign of dropsy is swelling and puffiness in the feet, ankles, legs and possibly the face and hands. According to Family Doctor, the skin above the swollen area will be stretched and shiny. If you push on the area, it will cause a dimple to form and will remain there for several seconds. According to the Mayo Clinic, you may experience an expanded abdomen. If you experience shortness of breath, difficulty breathing or chest pain, it is possible you may have pulmonary oedema, which is dropsy in the lungs. The Mayo Clinic says to seek medical attention immediately if you experience any of these signs or symptoms.


Dropsy can have a number of causes. According to The Mayo Clinic, it occurs when tiny blood vessels called capillaries leak fluid after being damaged or from suffering excess pressure. The kidneys then retain extra sodium and water to assist the malfunctioning capillaries. The capillaries then release more fluid, which builds in the tissues and causes swelling. Possible causes are sitting or standing in one position for too long, eating too much salty foods, pregnancy, certain medications, sunburn and problems with internal organs such as the liver, kidneys and heart.


Family Doctor says that the only way to properly treat dropsy is to treat the condition that caused it. If dropsy occurs in your legs, you should elevate them or wear support stockings. Do not sit or stand for long periods without taking time to periodically walk around. Limit the amount of salt you eat. Your doctor may prescribe a diuretic to reduce the amount of water and salt in your body. Massage may help the swelling and puffiness as may avoiding extreme temperatures. It is best to consult your doctor to be properly tested and diagnosed before attempting any treatment options on your own.

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About the Author

Eddie Wright is a freelance writer who has worked in television and has been writing since 2004. He is the author of the novella, "Broken Bulbs," and a member of the publishing collective Backword Books. Wright has a Bachelor of Arts in communications from Monmouth University