Edema is often referred to as swelling, but it’s a bit more than that. Edema is fluid trapped in the tissue of your body, most commonly in the ankles or feet. Edema can happen for a variety of reasons including allergies, medications, and diseases, which means not all edema can be treated in the same way. More severe cases of edema will result in skin that looks stretched or shiny and swelling that will hold the shape of a fingerprint after you put pressure onto it, also known as pitting edema. Severe cases of edema can lead to trouble with mobility and a variety of other health problems if the edema affects your lungs or abdomen.
Before edema can be treated, your doctor will likely want to determine why you have it in the first place. This can be done with a physical exam and a variety of different tests. After establishing why you have the edema, your doctor may recommend some lifestyle changes. Common recommendations include quitting smoking, limiting alcohol, weight management, cutting out unnecessary medications, and regular exercise.
While you make the recommended lifestyle changes, the edema needs to be managed. Management may include keeping the affected areas elevated above your heart, wearing support stockings that prevent fluid from sitting in your legs or feet and taking a diuretic to remove excess water from the body. Edema massages can be helpful to remove excess fluid from the body as well, but a licensed physical or occupational therapist should only perform these. Your physical or occupational therapist will be able to help you with simple exercises to keep your body moving throughout the day, as well as recommending the correct size support stocking for your needs. In severe cases of edema that lead to limited mobility of the patient, an occupational therapist can help teach them how to adapt their environment to meet their needs so that they can maintain a level of independence.
If you’d like to learn more about how a physical or occupational therapist can begin helping with your edema, give us a call to set up a consultation. At your first appointment, one of our therapists will discuss your medical history, goals, and how to create a treatment plan to manage your edema. With the proper lifestyle changes and assistance from a medical team, you may even be able to treat your edema in the long-term to prevent it from getting this bad again!