Cyclical edema is a form of edema most commonly noted in women a few days prior to their period. It tends to involve fluid retention and collection in the legs, and women may also notice fluid retention under the eyes upon waking.
Cyclical edema is called idiopathic, since there is no known disease origin for the condition. It is thought that tiny blood vessels toward the surface of the skin may leak or break and provide an outlet for fluid to flow under the skin. This usually does not mean that bruising will take place, but one may notice more broken veins in the skin of women with this condition.
While many cases of edema are caused by heart problems, blood pressure issues, diabetes or liver disease, cyclical edema has few known causes. Women can take diuretics, which can help relieve fluid collection. Over time, the condition can worsen, causing unwanted cosmetic effects. Diuretic use may result in gradual worsening of the condition, and ultimately cause more problems than it initially solves.
Women using diuretics may develop a dependence upon them, which then rebounds. Thus in most cases, cyclical edema is not treated with diuretics because it will result in later unwanted effects. As well as additional swelling, use of diuretics may cause muscle cramping, pancreatitis, diabetes, and painful or swollen breasts.
Some elements that can help allay the condition are elevation of the swollen areas. For example, if the eyes are affected in the morning, sleeping in a slightly elevated position may alleviate some of the swelling. If legs become swollen from standing during the day, then elevation of the legs can help gradually reduce fluid accumulation.
Some doctors use ACE inhibitors or medications like ephedrine to reduce swelling. ACE inhibitors may however make blood pressure too low and is considered risky. Others may use pain medications. Stimulants may create a gradual dependence that also should be avoided. In most cases, there is no one right way to treat this uncomfortable and difficult condition.
When one suspects cyclical edema, this warrants a check-up with a physician to rule out other conditions which may result in fluid retention and swelling. Since there are many serious conditions which can result in edema, a physician may want to examine a patient’s heart function, kidney function and lung function to be certain that a diagnosis of cyclical edema is the correct one.