Edema puts a lot of weight on one’s shoulders, legs, stomach, heart and lungs. The official definition of Edema is: A condition characterized by an excess of watery fluid collecting in the cavities or tissues of the body.
More or less, one’s body is taking in more fluids than it loses over time. Now think of this as a cup and in a day you drink 10 ounces of fluids yet you only expel 9 ounces, the next day the same thing and so on. Over the course of just 10 days, your body has an extra 10 ounces of fluid it has to find a place to store within you skin cells. It usually starts in the lower body area and fills up ward.
With me, they doctors say nerve damage in my low back doesn’t allow the pressure from my heart to make its way down to force the fluids back up and out. So the fluid makes it down and some of it decides to vacation there and never leaves. This has now built up into my feet and legs causing swelling which after awhile pushes the skin apart and hurts like the dickens. With my mother, hers has gone on to what is known as COPD, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, which the American Lung Association shows (www.lung.org) is the third leading cause of death in the United States.
The definition of COPD is: Any of various lung diseases leading to poor pulmonary aeration, including emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Can cause coughing, produces large amounts of mucus, wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness and many other symptoms. Is an ongoing, progressive disease that means the disease get worse over time. (Information obtained from MedlinePlus.)
Medications help relieve the excess fluid as well as compression stockings that, depending on how bad the condition, you may have to wear a few time a week to daily. They are not the most flattering things to wear especially if you’re used to wearing shorts 360/365 days of the year. I ended up buying one that is solid dark blue and a second one that matches what the Olympic runners wore during the last games–Tye Dye Red, White and Blue. If I have to wear them, I’m doing it with some style.
It is also recommended that you lay flat with your legs raised up causing the fluid to run back into the upper body to be expelled. The main issue with COPD is the fluid backs up to the point that the excess fluid is pressing on the lungs causing heavy breathing; you can’t catch one’s breath. If you are a person with other health related issues, such as over weight, diabetes, heart issues, even lung issues, makes all of this worse.
I have heard several different opinions to what someone should do at home to monitor themselves if they have edema or COPD to determine if a visit to the emergency room (ER) is necessary. I’ve sort of went the full spectrum, all four of the doctors my mom have spoken with about this and the two I have seen all say that: First, you should monitor your weight daily at first at night and again in the morning; Second, there should be no more than a two- to four-pound increase in one’s weight overnight; Third, if there is, that is when you should be contacting you primary care physician or going into the ER. Of course, if you wake up and look at your feet and they remind you of great big balloons, you may want to go see a doctor. (I feel a “You know you have COPD if___” list coming on but I will restrain myself.)
How can you prevent edema in the first place if it is something that runs in your family? A healthy lifestyle can aid in the treatment of heart failure, as well as prevent heart disease from occurring in the first place. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea, can effect edema. Losing weight can significantly decrease your risk of heart failure, as well as reducing salt in your diet. Eating too much salt can significantly worsen heart failure in a short amount of time. Some healthy lifestyle habits one can make includes:
- reducing alcohol intake
- not smoking
- reducing fat in diet
- getting regular exercise (ask your doctor for recommendations if you currently have heart failure)
- getting adequate sleep
I know what the pain and discomfort edema and COPD have had not only on myself but my mother and several of her sisters. I am hoping by writing this and getting some of this information out there that it will encourage even one person who thinks that the swelling in there feet is because the weathers changing, or it’s that time, I just over ate, whatever the reason people use to write it off, to go see your doctor, explain what’s happening. Show him your feet. With my doctor I just take a photo, attach it to an email and within 24 hours he responds if I do/don’t need to go in. That’s how I found out I have edema and have for years. The doctors say the accident I was in 21 years ago that damaged the nerves in my low back also disrupted the signals for the muscles to work at pushing the fluids back up once they’ve made it to my feet. An accident caused all this eight to ten years after it happened. Go figure.
“Without Humor Pain is just Painful.” ~ Richard Kreis
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