Idiopathic edema is a buildup of fluid in the extremities with no known cause. It is more common in women than in men and there are a number of treatment options available to help people manage the condition. Several medical exams may be needed to confirm a diagnosis, as sometimes a cause is not obvious, but it can be identified by a specialist or a doctor with experience in the area of edema management and treatment.
Edema occurs when fluid starts leaking out of the blood vessels and accumulates in the extremities, where it cannot successfully be expressed by the body. There are a wide range of known causes for edema, including kidney and heart disease, as well as vascular disease. In people with idiopathic edema, the body usually starts retaining salt for no known reason, and this causes the blood vessels to leak fluid.
The amount of swelling may fluctuate over time and sometimes patients experience a feeling of heaviness without any actual physical signs of edema. The condition can be uncomfortable and sometimes painful, especially for people who stand for long periods of time during the day. Swelling and soreness can increase while upright and in the heat.
Treatments for edema can include making dietary modifications and providing the patient with medications to try and eliminate some of the excess fluid. Compression garments may be used to force fluid slowly back into the vessels so it can be removed by the kidneys, and to prevent further fluid accumulation. Healthcare professionals may also evaluate a patient with a case of suspected idiopathic edema for obscure and unusual causes to see if the condition actually does have a cause. Finding a cause can help with management and treatment.
While undergoing testing to determine the cause of the edema, patients should make sure to thoroughly go over their medical histories. A seemingly unrelated symptom or disease may actually be closely linked and would be important to know about. Patients will also be asked to disclose all medications they are using, including over-the-counter drugs and supplements, and they may be asked to keep a food diary so a healthcare provider can get a complete picture of what the patient is eating and when. All of this information will be helpful in a clinical evaluation, where a complete picture is critical for making diagnostic decisions.