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Abnormal accumulation of fluid beneath the skin is known as edema. This leads to a puffy appearance, often in a limb, most commonly a leg.
There are many causes of edema. In some cases, the underlying problem (for example, congestive heart failure or preeclampsia of pregnancy) must be medically treated in order for the edema to resolve. In other cases (such as chronic venous insufficiency, edema following minor trauma, or lymphedema resulting from damage to lymphatic vessels caused by surgery and other medical treatments), it is possible with both conventional and natural approaches to focus specifically on the edema. Unless edema is clearly due to minor trauma, it should never be treated until the underlying cause has been properly diagnosed by a healthcare professional. The discussion below deals only with situations in which it is safe to focus on the edema itself and not the underlying cause.
People with edema may notice that a ring on their finger feels tighter than in the past, or they might have difficulty in putting on shoes, especially toward the end of the day. They may also notice a puffiness of the face around the eyes, or in the feet, ankles, and legs. When edema is present, pressure on the skin, such as from the elastic band on socks, may leave an indentation that is slow to disappear. Edema of the abdomen, called ascites, may be a sign of serious underlying disease and must be immediately evaluated by a doctor.
If the edema is affecting one limb, the limb should be kept elevated whenever possible. This allows fluid to drain more effectively from the congested area. To decrease fluid buildup in the legs, people should avoid sitting or standing for long periods of time without moving.
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The information presented by Healthnotes is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. Self-treatment is not recommended for life-threatening conditions that require medical treatment under a doctor's care. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires December 2017.