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Edema is the medical term for swelling. It is a general response of the body to injury or inflammation. Edema can be isolated to a small area or affect the entire body. Medications, infections, pregnancy, and many medical problems can cause edema. Edema results whenever small blood vessels become "leaky" and release fluid into nearby tissues. The extra fluid accumulates, causing the tissue to swell. Taking medication to remove excess fluid and reducing the amount of salt in your food often relieves edema. When edema is a sign of an underlying disease, the disease itself requires separate treatment.
To understand what might be causing edema, doctors will perform a physical exam and can ask questions about medical history. This information is often enough to determine the underlying cause of edema. In some cases, X-rays, ultrasound exams, blood tests or urine analysis may be necessary.
Treatment of edema often means treating the underlying cause of edema, for example, allergic reactions causing edema may be treated with antihistamines and corticosteroids. Edema resulting from a blockage in fluid drainage can sometimes be treated by eliminating the obstruction: