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Edema (cont.)

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What is idiopathic edema?

Idiopathic edema is a pitting edema of unknown cause that occurs primarily in pre-menopausal women who do not have evidence of heart, liver, or kidney disease. In this condition, the fluid retention at first may be seen primarily pre-menstrually (just prior to menstruation), which is why it sometimes is called "cyclical" edema. However, it can become a more constant and severe problem.

Patients with idiopathic edema often take diuretics to decrease the edema in order to lessen the discomfort of bloating and swelling. Paradoxically, however, the edema in this condition can become more of a problem after the use of diuretics. The patients can develop fluid retention as a rebound phenomenon each time they discontinue diuretics. It is important to talk to your doctor before using any diuretics.

Patients with idiopathic edema appear to have a leak in the capillaries (tiny peripheral blood vessels that connect the arteries with the veins) so that fluid passes from the blood vessels into the surrounding interstitial space. Thus, a patient with idiopathic edema has a decreased blood volume, which leads to the typical reaction of salt retention by the kidneys.

  • The leg edema in these patients is exaggerated in the standing position, since edema tends to accumulate in those parts of the body that are close to the ground at the time.
  • These patients often have edema around the eyes (periorbital edema) in the morning because the edema fluid accumulates during the night around their eyes as they lay sleeping flat.

In contrast, edema around the eyes does not tend to develop in cardiac patients who keep their heads elevated at night because of shortness of breath when they lie flat. These patients characteristically experience varying amounts of edema in different parts of the body at different times of the day.

Patients with idiopathic edema often become dependent on diuretics, and this dependence is often difficult to interrupt. A period as long as three weeks off diuretics may be required to break the dependency cycle. The withdrawal from diuretics may lead to fluid retention that produces major discomfort and swelling. Furthermore, there are definite risks associated with the prolonged use of diuretics in these individuals, which are compounded by the tendency to increase the doses of the diuretics.

As a result of chronic diuretic use and abuse, patients may develop:

  • A deficiency of potassium
  • Depletion of blood volume in the blood vessels
  • Kidney insufficiency or failure

Other side effects of diuretics include:

Although withdrawal from diuretics is the most important factor in treating these patients, other medications have been used to try to minimize the fluid retention. These medications include ACE inhibitors, low-dose amphetamines,ephedrine, bromocriptine (Parlodel), or levodopa-carbidopa (Sinemet) in combination. However, their effectiveness is uncertain and side effects of these drugs may occur. For example, hypotension (low blood pressure) may be seen with the use of ACE inhibitors, especially if the patient is also taking diuretics.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/6/2014

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Edema - Effective Treatments Question: What kinds of treatments have been effective for edema?
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Edema - Signs and Symptoms Question: In addition to swelling, what were your signs and symptoms associated with edema?
Edema - Salt Intake Question: If you've had edema, in what ways do you adjust your salt intake?
Edema - Diuretics Question: Do you take diurectics to control edema? Please discuss your experience.
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Source: MedicineNet.com
http://www.medicinenet.com/edema/article.htm

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