To understand the cause of your edema, a health care provider will do a physical exam and ask about your medical history. This might be enough to figure out the cause. Sometimes, diagnosis might require blood tests, ultrasound exams, vein studies or others.
Mild edema usually goes away on its own. Wearing compression garments and raising the affected arm or leg higher than the heart helps.
Medicines that help the body get rid of too much fluid through urine can treat worse forms of edema. One of the most common of these water pills, also known as diuretics, is furosemide (Lasix). A health care provider can decide about the need for water pills.
Treating the cause of the swelling is often the focus over time. If edema is a result of medicines, for example, a care provider might change the dose or look for another medicine that doesn't cause edema.
Lifestyle and home remedies
The following may help decrease edema and keep it from coming back. Talk to your health care provider about which of these might help you.
Use pressure. If edema affects an arm or leg, wearing compression stockings, sleeves or gloves might help. These garments keep pressure on the limbs to prevent fluid from building up. Usually worn after the swelling goes down, they help prevent more swelling.
For pregnant people, wearing support stockings during air travel might help.
- Move. Moving and using the muscles in the part of the body that's swollen, especially the legs, might help move fluid back toward the heart. A health care provider can talk about exercises that might reduce swelling.
- Raise. Hold the swollen part of the body above the level of the heart several times a day. Sometimes, raising the swollen area during sleep can be helpful.
- Massage. Stroking the affected area toward the heart using firm, but not painful, pressure might help move fluid out of that area.
- Protect. Keep the swollen area clean and free from injury. Use lotion or cream. Dry, cracked skin is more open to scrapes, cuts and infection. Always wear socks or shoes on the feet if that's where the swelling usually is.
- Reduce salt. A health care provider can talk about limiting salt. Salt can increase fluid buildup and worsen edema.
Preparing for your appointment
Unless you're already seeing a health care provider for a condition such as pregnancy, you'll probably start by seeing your family provider.
Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment.
What you can do
- Be aware of anything you need to do before the appointment. When you make the appointment ask if there's anything you need to do to prepare. For example, you might need to fast before certain tests.
- Write down your symptoms, including any that may seem like they have nothing to do with the reason for which you made the appointment. Note when the symptoms began.
- Make a list of your key medical information, such as other conditions you have. List medicines, vitamins and supplements you take, including doses.
- Make a list of questions to ask your provider. Bring something to write with or a recorder to get down the answers.
- Take pictures on your phone. If swelling gets much worse at night, it might help your health care provider to see how bad it gets.
For edema, some questions to ask might include:
- What are the possible causes of my symptoms?
- What tests do I need? How do I prepare for them?
- Is my condition long-lasting or temporary?
- What treatments, if any, do you recommend?
- I have other medical problems. How do I manage these conditions together?
- Do you have brochures or other printed material I can have? What websites do you recommend?
What to expect from your doctor
Your provider is likely to ask you questions, such as:
- Do your symptoms come and go, or are they always there?
- Have you had edema before?
- Are you short of breath?
- Does anything seem to make your symptoms better?
- Is there less swelling after a night's rest?
- Does anything make your symptoms worse?
- What kinds of foods do you regularly eat?
- Do you restrict salt and salty foods?
- Do you drink alcohol?
- Are you urinating as usual?