Edema - What Is Its Physiology?

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Edema - What Is Its Physiology?

Edema has to do with swelling that occurs due to fluid that gets trapped in your tissues. It often happens in the legs, feet, and ankles, but it can also affect other body parts like the hands, face, and abdomen. In severe cases, it can even disrupt the proper functioning of the entire body. There are several types of edema. 

In the human body, all tissues are made up of blood vessels and cells and connective tissues that significantly hold cells together. A large amount of the body’s fluid that stays outside the cells is stored in the interstitial spaces (places not within the cells) or the blood vessels. For a variety of diseases, there could be an accumulation of fluids in either one of these compartments. Typically, all organs found in the body have interstitial spaces where fluid could accumulate, which results in edema. 

Sodium and Edema Mechanism

edema mechanism

Sodium helps with regulating the balance of fluids in the body. Its primary source comes from salt in the diet. Many people consume salt without considering the development of salt retention or depletion. The kidneys play a significant role in removing salt from the body, and this is because they can effectively control the amount of salt in the body by changing the amount excreted in the urine.

Subsequently, if there is a reduction of blood flow in the kidneys due to a health condition or daily habits, the kidneys would perceive that the body requires more fluid to aid the decreased blood flow. Salt retention would occur; on the other hand, if an individual has a renal disease that affects their kidneys, excreting salt in the urine becomes a challenge, so the level of salt in the patient’s body increases, which would now cause them to retain water and develop edema.

When there is a build-up of water in your tissues, an effective way to get rid of it is to cut down on the amount of salt in your diet. This would reduce the amount of fluid in your tissues and reduce the strain on your heart to pump enough blood.

Which Condition Increases The Risk of Developing Edema?

Several conditions could increase your risk of developing edema. They are:

Standing or sitting for too long

When you sit or stand for too long, it can cause extra fluid to begin to build up at your feet, lower legs, and ankles. It might sound unrealistic, but something as basic as this could cause you to develop edema.


pregnancy during edema

When pregnant, fluid needed by the placenta and fetus causes the body to retain more sodium than usual naturally. This could increase your risk of developing edema. However, this risk could be improved while taking some medications and drugs.

Venous insufficiency (Long term)

Venous insufficiency occurs when valves inside the veins in your leg become weak. This may cause you to develop a condition known as venous insufficiency, which will make it quite tricky for your veins to take the blood back to your heart. This would lead to varicose veins and the build-up of excess fluid.

Eating high in sodium.

Prevention Tips

Consume Less Salt

Salt is made up of sodium and chloride. The sodium binds w and the body. To prevent edema from developing, cut down on your salt intake.

Move Around

Walking around and not sitting with your legs dangling can be an effective way to reduce fluid build-up in areas like the feet and lower limbs.

Drink Enough Water 

water for edema

Consuming enough water can significantly help in the prevention of water retention. Being dehydrated does a lot of harm.

Eat Foods Rich in Potassium

Potassium significantly prevents edema by decreasing your sodium levels and increasing urine production. Some fruits and vegetables rich in potassium include leafy vegetables like spinach, sweet potatoes, avocados, and bananas.

Avoid Refined Carbohydrate

The consumption of refined carbs causes a spike in insulin and blood sugar levels. When you have high insulin levels, your body retains more sodium by increasing its absorption in your kidneys. So, reduce processed carbs and focus on taking in healthy proteins.

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