What is Dropsy?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 24 July 2018
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More commonly known today as edema in the United States and oedema in the United Kingdom, dropsy is the accumulation of large amounts of excess fluid below the surface of the skin or in some cavity of the body. Inflammation is often one of the underlying causes for this condition and can occur just about anywhere in the body. Fortunately, the condition is treatable in most situations, unless complications from a concurrent health problem arise.

One of the leading causes of the development of dropsy has to do with the condition of the blood vessels. For example, if there is some type of obstruction in the vessels running through a leg, this will lead to a drop in the oncotic pressure with the vessel system. Fluid will begin to build up, leading to swelling in the leg and possibly the ankle. Locating and eliminating the obstruction can allow the proper amount of pressure to resume and thus alleviate the pain in the swollen region.


Along with swelling in the legs and ankles, dropsy may also occur in the hands and feet. In addition to some sort of blockage in the blood vessels, there is also the chance that the fluid retention is taking place due to problems with the liver or other ailments such as pancreatitis. The hand or the foot may begin to appear somewhat puffy, and it may become somewhat difficult to bend the fingers or wiggle the toes. A physician can normally determine the origin of the problem and use medication to help alleviate the swelling.

Dropsy can also take place due to fluid accumulation in the soft tissue or in organs that people normally assume would not retain fluid. This includes organs such as the brain or the eyes. People suffering with glaucoma are at a higher risk to retain excess fluid in the cornea. The presence of lupus is thought to increase the potential for fluid retention in the brain, resulting in the individual experiencing more periods of drowsiness that may in turn lead to losing consciousness from time to time.

Fortunately, a qualified physician can often identify the type and origin of dropsy with relative ease. In most cases, the condition will begin to subside once the underlying cause is addressed and effectively treated. Depending on what areas of the body, including the internal organs, are involved with the condition, the treatments may provide quick results. However, if the underlying cause is connected with a severe health condition, it may take more time to treat dropsy effectively.


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Post 4

My partner has now got a large mars bar size swelling in her leg after falling into my parked wheelchair. Will this clear over time?

Post 3

@schooner: I also am no medical professional but I would suggest you see your doctor as soon as you can. My husband had swelling in his hands, legs, and feet for no reason that we could think of. He had not been injured, had no history of arthritis or any other medical condition that we knew of that could cause the swelling.

He finally decided he would go to the doctor. After many tests, he was diagnosed as having congestive heart failure. We had no idea that it would be anything like that. He is now on medications, one being a diuretic. He is now doing much better but has had to make some lifestyle changes.

Post 2

@schooner: There are many reasons that you may have swelling in your feet and hands. I am certainly no doctor, but I suffer from the same symptoms. I took some over the counter water pills because I thought that I was just retaining fluid but it just made me urinate all the time without relieving my swelling.

I finally went to the doctor and was diagnosed with arthritis. The swelling was caused by joint inflammation. I am now on an anti-inflammatory medication and the swelling has significantly decreased.

Post 1

I've got swelling in my hands and ankles. What might be the reasons for this? It appeared about two weeks ago.

My appointment will be made to my doctor come this


Thanks and God bless you all.

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