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Edema is a condition of abnormally large fluid volume in the circulatory system or in tissues between the body's cells (interstitial spaces).
Normally the body maintains a balance of fluid in tissues by ensuring that the same of amount of water entering the body also leaves it. The circulatory system transports fluid within the body via its network of blood vessels. The fluid, which contains oxygen and nutrients needed by the cells, moves from the walls of the blood vessels into the body's tissues. After its nutrients are used up, fluid moves back into the blood vessels and returns to the heart. The lymphatic system (a network of channels in the body that carry lymph, a colorless fluid containing white blood cells to fight infection) also absorbs and transports this fluid. In edema, either too much fluid moves from the blood vessels into the tissues, or not enough fluid moves from the tissues back into the blood vessels. This fluid imbalance can cause mild to severe swelling in one or more parts of the body.
Many ordinary factors can upset the balance of fluid in the body to cause edema, including:
Some medical conditions may also cause edema, including:
Some conditions that may cause swelling in just one leg include:
Symptoms vary depending on the cause of edema. In general, weight gain, puffy eyelids, and swelling of the legs may occur as a result of excess fluid volume. Pulse rate and blood pressure may be elevated. Hand and neck veins may be observed as fuller.
Author Info: Kathleen D. Wright RN, The Gale Group Inc., Gale, Detroit, Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine, 2002
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