When caring for senior loved ones, it is important to familiarize yourself with common ailments to know whether or not you should be concerned. For instance, it is not uncommon for adults to experience minor weight gain or swelling from time to time.
However, for older adults, especially those with chronic health conditions, swelling in certain body areas may be a sign of edema.
Keep reading to learn more about Edema in the elderly and when they need treatment.
What Causes Leg Swelling in the Elderly?
Edema is a condition that occurs when fluid gets trapped in the body’s tissues, causing swelling. The severity of edema can vary from person to person, and it may be localized or generalized. While edema can happen on any body part, it is most commonly experienced on the arms, legs, hands, and feet.
Edema has many different causes. Sometimes, edema can occur after a bug bite, consuming too much salt, allergies, or even sitting too long. Certain medications can also cause edema among the elderly due to fluid retention.
Regarding edema in the elderly, physical inactivity, surgery, and hereditary predisposition are among the most common causes.
Symptoms of Edema in the Elderly
If you are caring for an elderly loved one, it is important to familiarize yourself with the symptoms of edema. Since lower activity, increased health conditions, and medications all contribute to edema, older adults are particularly at risk.
Knowing the most common symptoms will allow you to identify the probable causes of edema and prevent serious complications.
General symptoms of edema in seniors include the following:
- The swelling of body parts, such as legs, arms, hands, or feet
- Puffiness of ankles, face, or feet
- Aching body parts and stiff joints
- Weight changes
- Decreased urine production
- Visual anomalies
Types of Edema in the Elderly
There are many different types of edema. These are the most common, especially among the elderly:
- Peripheral edema: This affects the extremities and causes swollen legs, ankles, feet, hands, and arms.
- Pulmonary edema: This occurs when excess fluid collects in the lungs. Can be a sign of congestive heart failure.
- Periorbital edema: This occurs when fluid buildup occurs around the eye, causing puffiness. It’s usually temporary.
- Generalized edema: This refers to fluid retention affecting the entire body.
- Corneal edema: This occurs when fluid retention occurs in the cornea, affecting vision.
Is Edema Dangerous in the Elderly?
It is important to seek medical treatment if you believe your loved one is experiencing edema. If left untreated, edema in the legs and other body parts can lead to painful swelling, difficulty walking, and poor circulation.
If the condition progresses, it can also cause wounds and dangerous infections, such as cellulitis. Cellulitis is a bacterial infection that can spread rapidly. If left untreated, the infection can quickly become life-threatening, especially among immunocompromised adults and the elderly.
Edema can also be a symptom of a serious underlying condition. Pulmonary edema can be a symptom of congestive heart failure. If your loved one is experiencing difficulty breathing, chest pains, coughing, and fatigue, they will need additional medical care. Edema is also a common symptom of liver damage and kidney disease.
If your loved one is sedentary due to lack of mobility, has recently undergone surgery, or has a clotting condition, persistent pain or swelling could be a symptom of deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Blood clots can be fatal, especially if it travels into the lung.
If you are caring for a senior and suspect they may have edema, call a physician right away.
Edema Treatment for Seniors
When treating seniors for edema, it is important to find the root cause of the symptoms. If your loved one has any chronic conditions, such as heart disease, managing the overall condition will help to eliminate or minimize the swelling and discomfort caused by edema.
If need be, your doctor may administer a diuretic to help eliminate excess fluid within the body.
How Can Family Caregivers Manage Edema in the Elderly?
If your loved one is currently experiencing edema or is prone to the condition, there are several things you can do to help prevent their discomfort.
Make them Healthy, Low-Sodium Meals
It is important that anyone prone to edema, especially the elderly, eat a healthy, low-sodium diet. Excess salt in the diet can lead to fluid retention and negatively affect cardiovascular health. If your loved one has lost some of the sense of taste, you can combat this with herbs, spices, and sodium-free seasonings to enhance their meals.
Additionally, you can add more foods to their diet that have diuretic properties to help combat fluid buildup. Asparagus, green beans, leafy greens, pineapple, and pumpkin all naturally have diuretic properties and have vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants.
While moving swollen body parts can be difficult and sometimes painful, movement can help to eliminate excess fluid in the body. Keeping seniors active will also help to eliminate other health issues. Physical therapy is a great way to get seniors moving in a safe and controlled environment. Speak to your doctor or a licensed physical therapist before your loved one begins any new fitness plan.
Monitor Fluid Intake
When it comes to staying hydrated and drinking water, we often think more is better. However, for a senior with a chronic condition that causes edema, less water may be better.
For instance, if your loved one’s edema is brought on by heart failure or kidney disease, their doctor may advise limited daily water intake. It’s important to note that some foods are naturally high in water and should be avoided. Foods like watermelon, ice cream, and soup should be limited if your loved one is on a prescribed daily liquid limit.
Help Care for Your Loved One’s Edema with Senior Health Care Solutions
At Senior Health Care Solutions, we know how important it is to keep your loved ones happy, healthy, and comfortable as they age. We also know that when you’re a caretaker, it can sometimes be difficult to meet your senior loved one’s needs.
Our skilled nursing centers offer unparalleled care to the elderly through short- and long-term rehabilitation. Whether you’re looking for physical therapy to help your loved one regain their strength or cardiac recovery services after a heart attack, we can help.
To learn more about how our staff helps our patients and residents to stay happy and healthy, reach out to us at email@example.com, or call (570) 969-2188.