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Especially now more of us are living for longer, many thousands of people across the UK live with Oedema on a daily basis, but what is it, what causes it and what can you do to help make life better?  Whether you’ve lived with Oedema for years, been recently diagnosed or have a friend or relative trying to cope with the condition, read on below to find the answers in our short guide to living with Oedema.

What is Oedema?

What actually is Oedema? You’re most likely to hear it referred to as fluid retention or simply ‘swelling in the legs’.  Without turning you into a doctor, the basic problem is that your lymphatic system, which for good reasons supplies fluid to the tissues throughout everyone’s body isn’t functioning as it should. In some people, things get out of balance, either with too much fluid being produced or not enough getting recirculated around the bloodstream.

As a result, your body tissues are somewhat over-hydrated and – well, gravity has its own way of dealing with things, meaning the extra fluid tends to collect in the lower parts of your body – typically your feet and legs.

Symptoms of Oedema

Some of the symptoms of Oedema are relatively obvious, others may be less so – at least to others. Common symptoms of Oedema can include:

  • Swollen legs, ankles and feet
  • Puffy skin, which can also feel stretched or become discoloured
  • Stiff joints, especially in your lower limbs
  • Skin that retains the imprint of your finger for longer than usual (called pitting oedema)
  • Sore or uncomfortable legs

Because you’re retaining more fluid and water is heavy, you may also find you tend to gain weight and may feel more lethargic than usual as a result. Symptoms can often become worse towards the end of the day or after a long period sitting down.

Causes of Oedema

Big subject! In many ways, the appearance of oedema is your body’s sign that something else isn’t working as well as it once did. There can be many reasons for this. Some – like being pregnant – are temporary and usually nothing to worry yourself about. Others can be ongoing for some time or even something that’ll stick around most of the time.

Some of the more common causes of oedema are often related to cardiovascular issues which result in a decline in circulation of blood and other fluids around your body. This is likely to be something we all experience as we get older but can be made worse by:

  • Chronic lung disease – such as COPD
  • Heart failure – different from a heart attack, just you’re heart not pumping as strongly as it should
  • Kidney, liver or thyroid disease
  • Serious varicose veins
  • A blockage in the lymphatic system – which regulates fluid flowing between the bloodstream and the tissue (lymphoedema)
  • Medicines for high blood pressure – which are designed to remove fluids from the bloodstream
Coping with Oedema

Often Oedema is a symptom of other, underlying causes for which your doctor will provide advice and treatment, as appropriate.  Oedema itself can be annoying, irritating, embarrassing or uncomfortable – but the good news is it can also be manageable, especially with the right advice, lifestyle and daily living aids.

As much as you can, take some daily exercise – just walking is ideal. You should especially try to avoid sitting still for long periods at a time, as this creates the ideal conditions for any excess fluid to collect in your legs and feet.

In terms of clothing, try to avoid anything which sits tightly against your skin in one linear area, sort of like a mini tourniquet – socks with tight elastic at the top or narrow shoes being classic examples. Look for loose-fitting socks, which will be much more comfortable against your legs and roomy, wide-fitting shoes.

Other top tips for coping with Oedema include investing in a rise and recline chair, which helps you sit at a more – well, reclined – angle and an adjustable bed which will enable you to get the ideal position for sleeping or sitting in bed.

Read on below for some examples of products available from Mobility Solutions to help you cope with Odema.

Top Ten Oedema Care Products
  1. Gravity men’s shoe, from Padders
  2. Karla ladies’ shoe, from Padders
  3. Loose-fitting bed socks
Living Room Chairs
  1. MultiCare Plus rise & recline chair, from Recliners
  2. Camberley rise & recliner, from Pride
  3. Symphony rise & recline chair with pressure care management, from Recliners
  1. Tilt-in-space Fusion, from Pride
  2. Tilt-in-space Q700 powerchair, from Sunrise
Beds & Mattrasses
  1. Elan adjustable bed, from Adjustamatic
  2. Casa Med Classic adjustable bed, from Drive Medical

Remember, with Mobility Solutions, you can speak to our expert team at any time for free advice on the best products to help you cope with Oedema. Call us free on the number at the top of this page.

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