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Edema (also known as dropsy or fluid retention) is swelling caused by the accumulation of abnormally large amounts of fluid in the spaces between the body's cells. It is a symptom rather than a disease or disorder. Widespread, long-term edema can indicate a serious underlying disorder.
Signs and Symptoms
These will vary and may include the following.
What Causes It?
Imbalance in the body's fluid transfer can be caused by the following.
What to Expect at Your Provider's Office
Your health care provider will look for varicose veins, blood clots, wounds, or infections. An X ray, computed tomography scan, magnetic resonance imaging, urine test, or blood test may be necessary. Edema caused by organ failure or high altitude sickness may require hospitalization.
Treatment of edema varies depending on the underlying disease or disorder. In addition to drugs that your health care provider prescribes, the following can help to reduce swelling.
Over the Counter
Surgery may be required to remove fat and fluid deposits associated with a certain type of edema called lipedema, or to repair damaged veins or lymphatic glands to reestablish lymph and blood flow.
Complementary and Alternative Therapies
The following nutritional and herbal support guidelines may help relieve edema, but the underlying cause must be addressed.
Herbs may be used as dried extracts (capsules, powders, teas), glycerites (glycerine extracts), or tinctures (alcohol extracts). Teas should be made with 1 tsp. herb per cup of hot water. Steep covered 5 to 10 minutes for leaf or flowers, and 10 to 20 minutes for roots.
A herbal diuretic is are best taken as a cooled tea (4 to 6 cups per day), although a tincture may also be used (30 to 60 drops four times a day). Combine three of these herbs with equal parts of two to three additional herbs from the following categories, as indicated: cleavers (Gallium aparine), yarrow (Achillea millefolium), oatstraw (Avena sativa), elder (Sambucus canadensis), red clover (Trifolium pratense), and red root (Ceonothus americanus)
For cyclic edema, such as swelling from menstruation:
Homeopathy may be useful as a supportive therapy.
Acupuncture may improve fluid balance.
Therapeutic massage can assist with lymph drainage.
Excessive fluid retention during pregnancy (toxemia) is potentially dangerous to both you and your baby.
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Copyright © 2000 Integrative Medicine Communications
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