What Are the Different Types of Edema?
There are several types of edema, with each affecting different body parts and requiring different treatments. In order to properly treat your edema, your doctor will determine what type you have.
The different types of edema include:
Lymphedema is a type of chronic edema that results from an accumulation of lymph fluid in the body. Swelling from lymphedema is usually found in the arms or legs and can cause pain and discomfort in the affected limb. Primary and secondary lymphedema are two types of lymphedema. Primary lymphedema is due to improper formation of the development of the lymphatics prior to birth, which can be spontaneous or inherited. Secondary lymphedema develops after birth as a result of an injury or disruption to a once healthy lymphatic system, and the latter is caused by an injury or a disruption to the lymphatic system.
To diagnose lymphedema, doctors will often review patient history and conduct an examination. However, your doctor may decide to use other tests to provide imaging of a patient’s venous and lymphatic systems, typically ultrasound. In some cases, providers may also use CT or MRI scans, NIRF lymphatic imaging, or lymphoscintigraphy.
While there is no cure for lymphedema, several treatment options can help manage the symptoms. Such treatment options include Tactile Medical’s Flexitouch Plus system, which stimulates the lymphatic system to provide an easy way to manage lymphedema and non-healing venous ulcers from home.
Lipedema is a type of edema that occurs in both legs. Lipedema is often confused with lymphedema because both medical conditions involve swelling of extremities. However, lymphedema is a lymphatic system disorder where the flow of lymph fluid is disrupted and primarily occurs in the upper or lower extremities. On the other hand, lipedema is caused by the accumulation of fat deposits in the lower extremities, typically the legs, rather than a disruption to the lymphatic system.
However, treating and managing the symptoms of lipedema is relatively similar to the treatment options for lymphedema. Pneumatic compression devices can help improve drainage and reduce swelling, and certified therapists can conduct manual lymph drainage, a massage technique, to reduce inflammation, pain, and swelling.
Phlebolymphedema is caused by chronic venous insufficiency that eventually overwhelms and damages the lymphatics. When your lymphatics are damaged, they have difficulty draining fluids, which leads to phlebolymphedema. Symptoms of phlebolymphedema include swelling of the feet, ankles, and lower legs, as well as skin changes and ulcers.
Family history, trauma, blood clots, pregnancy, and inflamed veins are all potential causes of phlebolymphedema, along with lifestyle factors like smoking and lack of exercise. Certified lymphedema therapists can provide treatment options and at-home management solutions, such as decongestive therapy, compressive bandages, lymphatic pumps, and exercise routines to promote lymphatic drainage.
Cerebral edema is swelling of the brain. This type of swelling can be a result of head trauma, reduced blood supply, or brain damage.
Common symptoms of cerebral edema include headaches, neck pain or stiffness, vision loss, nausea, vomiting, or dizziness. Cerebral edema can be life-threatening if it goes untreated, so if you experience any of these symptoms, see your doctor immediately.
If you suffer from cerebral edema, it’s crucial to prevent any further injury in that area. In order to treat cerebral edema, you have to target the underlying cause. Treatment can include hyperbaric oxygen therapy, medication, IV fluids, or in severe cases, surgery.
Macular edema is the build-up of fluid in the macula, which is located in the center of the retina. This part of the eye enables detailed, sharp vision, so someone with macular edema will likely experience distorted vision.
The main symptom of macular edema is blurriness near the center of your vision. This can range from slight blurriness to noticeable vision loss. It can affect one or both eyes.
There are various ways to treat macular edema. The most common is intravitreal injections, which is when medicine is injected into the vitreous gel with a needle. Other treatment options include corticosteroids, NSAIDs, or a vitrectomy, which is a surgery to remove the vitreous gel.
Periorbital edema is puffiness or inflammation around the eyes due to fluid build-up. The cause of periorbital edema can be from an infection, tumor, medication, surgery, or trauma.
Periorbital edema is typically temporary, but there are a few things you can do to reduce swelling. This includes reducing your salt intake, drinking more water, using a cold compress, applying corticosteroids, or taking anti-inflammatory medication.
Peripheral edema is a swelling that can affect the feet, ankles, legs, hands, and arms. There are various causes of peripheral edema, such as heart failure, liver failure, pregnancy, or burns.
Symptoms of peripheral edema typically include swelling, puffiness, and difficulty moving certain parts of the body.
Depending on the severity and cause of your edema, there are several ways to treat it. If the edema is caused by lifestyle conditions, you can try elevating your legs, exercising, massaging the affected area, or wearing compression socks to reduce swelling. For more serious cases, other treatment may be recommended, so it’s important to see a doctor for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan.
Pitting edema occurs when an indent or pit is left on the skin after pressure is applied to the affected area. Pitting edema can occur as a result of poor circulation, dehydration, pregnancy, high blood pressure, diabetes, or numerous other causes. Pitting edema can also be a side effect of certain medications.
Certain factors can increase a person’s risk of developing pitting edema, such as a sedentary lifestyle, high sodium diet, thyroid conditions, and heart disease. You can treat pitting edema by elevating the swollen body part, wearing compression socks, taking diuretics to flush out excess fluids, and reducing your salt intake.
Pulmonary edema occurs when there is an abnormal build-up of fluid in the lungs, which can lead to shortness of breath. Pulmonary edema is most commonly caused by congestive heart failure, which is when the heart is unable to pump efficiently, causing blood and fluid to build up in the lungs.
Pulmonary edema can also be caused by certain medications, kidney failure, high altitude exposure, or serious injury. If it goes untreated, pulmonary edema can be life-threatening.
The first way to treat pulmonary edema is to supplement oxygen through a face mask or nasal cannula. You may also be prescribed medications, such as diuretics, morphine, or blood pressure drugs to alleviate symptoms. If you experience pulmonary edema as a result of a heart condition, it’s important to make certain lifestyle changes. Try to keep your blood pressure under control, exercise, eat healthy, and avoid smoking.