Edema itself generally isn’t life threatening. While most cases of edema are mild, there are some serious medical conditions that can lead to edema as well.
Congestive heart failure is the most common cause of serious peripheral edema. It occurs when your heart doesn’t pump enough blood to keep moving through the system. *Cardiovascular health issues are often linked to diabetes, which is also a cause of edema.
Venous insufficiency occurs when the veins in the legs become weak and are unable to return blood to your heart rapidly.
Other serious causes include:
- lung disease,
- liver disease,
- kidney disease, and
- thyroid issues.
Some antidepressants and blood pressure medications may also cause edema. If you are taking any of these medications and you have edema, talk to your doctor about it.
Congestive Heart Failure and Diabetes
High blood sugar, cholesterol and elevated blood pressure often come with diabetes.
As these factors clog arteries, veins and capillaries, blood is no longer able to pump through the heart in the right quantities, and congestive heart failure can develop. People with diabetes are twice as likely to get heart disease or have a stroke than others.
Everyone should worry about how cholesterol and high blood pressure are affecting their heart. When a person has diabetes, they need to add high blood sugar and dangerous medication to the list of risk factors they consider.
Venous Insufficiency causes a weakness of the vascular walls due to either abnormalities in the support structures of the vein or excessive expression, activity, or release of enzymes that degrade structural compounds. Damage to the lining of the vein also triggers infiltration of white blood cells, which can cause inflammation (sometimes leading to edema) and lead to further vein wall damage.
Source: The Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine 3rd Edition, by Michael T. Murray, N.D. and Joseph Pizzorno, N.D.
Venous insufficiency is the result of an inefficient return of blood flow to the heart by veins in the legs.
This is caused by damaged or weakened valves in these veins. These defective valves cannot keep the flow of blood in one direction (up towards the heart). Instead, the blood in these veins can flow back through the veins. This results in reduced pressure and the pooling of blood in the lower limbs.
When blood pools in these veins, there is an increased chance that fluids will leak out into the surrounding tissues. Therefore, venous insufficiency can cause swelling of the ankles and feet.
Edema due to chronic venous insufficiency can be recognized by the ulcers and color changes in the skin of the lower leg.
Source: Learn What Triggers Edema
Heart, Liver, and Kidney Diseases
Congestive heart failure can cause swelling in the legs, ankles, and feet because it affects blood flow from the lower limbs.
During congestive heart failure, the lower chambers of the heart cannot effectively pump blood. Therefore, the venous return from the lower part of the body is affected. This means that blood flow stagnates in the legs, ankles, and feet, and therefore, the chance of fluid leakage into the surrounding tissue increases.
Liver diseases especially liver cirrhosis reduces the efficiency of the liver. This affects the release of hormones and other natural compounds that regulate the amount of water in the body.
In addition, liver cirrhosis increases the pressure in the veins draining the pancreas, intestines, and spleen. This rise in pressure can cause the accumulation of fluids in the abdominal cavity (ascites) and in the lower limbs (pedal edema).
The kidney is chiefly responsible for the loss of fluid in the body. The body passes fluids through the kidneys and, depending on the current needs of the body, some fluid may be reabsorbed or else lost in urine. Therefore, kidney diseases can cause the accumulation of fluids in the body.
The edema associated with kidney problems usually affects the eyes and legs.
In addition, liver diseases also cause blood albumin levels to fall. This can also lead to swelling in the legs, ankles, and feet.
Source: Learn What Triggers Edema
Hypothyroidism symptoms are such that they should not be ignored, and one should seek medical attention if they notice the appearance of these symptoms.
A major cause of hypothyroidism is known as autoimmune thyroid disorder.
This occurs when a person’s immune system malfunctions and begins to attack the thyroid gland. This is sometimes referred to as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and can be present along with other autoimmune disorders such as Fibromyalgia. Due to these complicating factors, it can become difficult to diagnose hypothyroid disorders.
- May be a result of a tumor on or near the hypothalamus gland or the pituitary gland
- Can also be caused by radiation to the brain, or anywhere near the hypothalamus or pituitary gland
- Another cause can be extensive blood loss, as in during childbirth, which in turn causes low blood flow and can result in infection of the pituitary gland. This is a condition known as “Sheehan Syndrome”
- Infection of the pituitary gland
- More rarely, certain viral illnesses can cause damage to the pituitary gland either through inflammation or iron deposits which are created due to the illness