Idiopathic Edema

Dealing With Idiopathic Edema

Edema is the unnatural accumulation and retention of fluids in the body, and idiopathic edema is the situation where such retention occurs rather suddenly and for no known reason. Put another way, the cause or causes of idiopathic edema are not known.

Idiopathic edema is most commonly found in women of child-bearing age, although there has been no particular connection between that particular stage of life and the disorder. In addition, the condition normally occurs only in women who are not experiencing or showing evidence of heart, liver, or kidney disease. The symptoms of the disorder are not always constant or permanent but are often cyclical in appearance.

There are two basic categories of edema, pitting edema and non-pitting edema. Pitting edema is so named because if one places a finger on a swollen area and presses down, a temporary depression, or pit, will be present once the pressure is removed. In the case of non-pitting edema, the depressed area springs back immediately as the pressure is removed. Idiopathic edema falls in the pitting category.

Use Of Diuretics - Treatment of idiopathic edema obviously involves some means of trying to remove excess fluid, and diuretics are commonly prescribed to do just that. In the case of idiopathic edema however, the use of diuretics must be monitored closely, as a patient will sometimes suffer a "bounce-back" effect, where the swelling returns and is worse that before. Anytime the cause of a disorder is unknown, the treatment chosen can be unpredictable. What works for many types of edema doesn't necessarily work for idiopathic edema. Sometimes diuretics will be effective at first and consequently the patient soon becomes dependent on them, requiring larger and larger does as time goes by. Withdrawal from diuretics can sometimes be a challenge.

While fluids can accumulate in many different parts of the body, and often does, it is often the legs and the eyes where symptoms of the disorder are more evident. Fluids naturally tend to accumulate in the legs while standing due to the force or gravity. Edema about the eyes, in particular in the eyelids is most noticeable after a person has been in a lying or resting position for a time. Edema around the eyes is referred to as periorbital edema.

Problems Caused - Idiopathic edema carries with it several potential problems beyond the discomfort associated with swelling or bloating. One of the symptoms is apparent leakage in the capillaries of the body, or at least a tendency of fluid to escape from blood vessels and accumulate in nearby interstitial spaces. This reduces the total blood volume which in turn will result in increased salt retention in the kidneys. In extreme cases kidney failure could result, although this is more apt to be caused by a continuous and excessive reliance on diuretics. Those with idiopathic edema who use diuretics as the means of treatment are prone to a potassium deficiency and all that may involve.

Other symptoms related to the combination of idiopathic edema and the use of diuretics include high blood sugar, inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis), and muscle cramps.


It was mentioned previously that idiopathic edema is most commonly found in women of child-bearing age, that is to say post-pubertal and pre-menopausal women. The fact is, this type of edema is found virtually exclusively in women fitting this category. Except when swelling caused by fluid retention is evident or quite visible, the symptoms of this type of edema can mimic other disorders, including carpal tunnel syndrome, and arthritis-like symptoms. Women suffering form this disorder may experience headaches for no known reason. Weight gain in unnatural increments during the course of the day, due to retention of liquids, is a tell-tale sign.

Other Treatments - There are medications which can be used in place of diuretics, but even many of these can have undesirable side effects. Any course of treatment should be supervised by a doctor, and home remedies should be used with a good dose of caution.