Dependent edema is a condition in which there is an accumulation of fluid underneath the skin that causes abnormal swelling. This usually happens in areas of the body that are lower than the heart. The most common sites for dependent edema are the arms, legs, and ankles. There are several health factors that can cause this type of swelling.
The most common cause of dependent edema is congestive heart failure. This is a condition in which the muscles of the heart become too weak to effectively pump blood throughout the body. A symptom of congestive heart failure is swelling of the lower legs and ankles. If an individual with congestive heart failure does not get treatment for this condition, it could produce more serious symptoms.
Pulmonary edema is a more severe symptom of congestive heart failure. When an individual develops pulmonary edema, fluid can build up in the lungs and cause severe shortness of breath. If this condition is allowed to escalate it can become a medical emergency. Some people who experience pulmonary edema may need breathing tubes inserted into their lungs so their bodies can receive sufficient oxygen.
Another cause of dependent edema can be damage to the kidneys. The kidneys are responsible for removing excess waste and fluid from the body. When the kidneys become damaged, this can cause swelling as the fluid builds up in the body. High blood pressure and diabetes are both chronic conditions that can damage the kidneys.
There are treatments for this type of edema. The first thing an individual should do is to keep the swollen extremity elevated. This is the simplest way to reduce the swelling and to help fluid move back through the heart where it can be expelled from the body. An individual who suffers from swelling of the ankles and lower legs should avoid standing for long periods of time. This same individual should wear tight stockings called compression stockings to keep fluid from collecting in the lower extremities.
If the dependent edema is caused by a heart condition certain medications can help. An individual may take a medication that will control the heart rate or the rhythm. This can help the heart pump the blood through the body more effectively and reduce swelling. These types of medications are usually taken with a medication that increases the elimination of fluid from the body. It does this by pulling excess fluid from the cells to the kidneys where it can be eliminated.
If the edema is caused by kidney failure, it may be necessary for the affected individual to receive dialysis. This is a procedure in which the individual is connected to a machine that performs the same function as the kidneys. During dialysis, the machine will filter out excess fluid and waste and replace it with healthy fluid. An individual on dialysis may need a kidney transplant to be able to function normally again.