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Oedema is a condition that results in the retention of fluid, causing certain areas of the body to swell. 

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The swelling in Oedema can occur in one particular part of the body, or may be more general, depending on the cause.

Cerebral oedema. This is a condition that can be caused by an increase in fluid inside the brain.

Pulmonary oedema is where an excess amount of fluid builds up in the lungs, causing a shortness of breath. 

Macular oedema is a build-up of fluid around the eyes.

Lymphoedema (chronic oedema) is a condition that can affect any part of the body, but it mainly occurs in the arms and legs. If the lymphatic drainage system becomes damaged due to either being overloaded, or has its function impaired, the result is a build up of fluids and other substances within the body. At least 400,000 men, women and children in the UK live with lymphoedema/chronic oedema.

Causes of Oedema

Oedema is often caused by underlying health conditions, such as…

  • Heart failure – when the heart cannot pump enough blood around the body, fluid can start to build up, most commonly in the feet and legs.
  • Kidney failure – the kidneys are responsible for removing waste products and fluid from your blood, but when they become damaged, it becomes difficult for the body's organs to cope, which can result in swelling.
  • Cirrhosis – is a disease that can lead to the accumulation of fluid in your stomach and legs.
  • Congestive heart failure – is a condition that occurs when the veins which return blood from your body to the heart become blocked. As this blockage occurs, fluid starts to be retained causing swellings.

Other causes can be from conditions and certain medicines for the treatment of illnesses like chronic lung disease, malnutrition, high blood pressure (hypertension) and thyroid issues.

There are a number of less common causes of oedema, such as…

  • Malignant hypertension – this is very high blood pressure that can damage the organs, such as the kidneys. This damage then leads to a build up of fluid in the body, resulting in swellings.
  • Medication side effects – certain medicines, like steroids and contraceptives, can have side effects that include increased fluid retention.
  • Ovarian cancer – can sometimes cause fluid build up in the stomach.

There are also a number of common causes including immobility, or standing still for long periods. However, there are times when swelling in your legs at the end of a long day does occur, but can disappear after a few hours. If the condition doesn’t clear, then you should seek medical attention.

A mild form of oedema can occur if you’re pregnant.

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Oedema can be a debilitating condition, as it can cause immense discomfort and make movement difficult. In some cases, oedema can lead to more serious health complications, such as heart failure.

If you have oedema, your skin may be swollen and/or appear puffy. You might also notice other symptoms like…

  • discoloured areas on your body
  • areas of skin that when pressed (pitting oedema) can retain the imprint for a short while
  • feeling pain in certain joints
  • tenderness around specific regions of the body.

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There are several ways you might be treated if you have oedema, such as taking certain medicines. You may also be advised to try and lose some weight (if you’re overweight) and take some regular exercise that will help to improve the circulation in your legs, such as swimming, or walking, as well as raising your legs a few times a day to again, help your circulation.

You should also try to avoid standing still for extended periods of time.

If you are experiencing any symptoms of oedema, it's important to speak to your GP. Early diagnosis and treatment is key to preventing further complications. With the right care, oedema can be managed effectively and you can enjoy a good quality of life.

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We have a wide range of unisex Oedema socks for sale. These socks feature elastic-free seams and are specifically designed for sensitive feet, allowing for a comfortable fit around the foot and calf. The seam-free design means the socks do not constrict, or tighten around the ankle. The cotton rich socks offer all the benefits of natural cotton fibres, helping prevent heat irritation, ensuring your feet stay cool and dry all day. You can buy these socks if you click here, or here!

LSN – The Lymphoedema Support Network has advice, general information, some personal stories and helpful links. You can access the website if you click here

Further information can be found on the Patient website – click here