As promised, I would divulge into some of my study content and share a few things with you. As I flicked though my notes from week one (which was almost three weeks ago) I found a small section on Oedema; or Edema if you live in the United States. Let’s crack open this text book shall we?
Now according to my lecture notes, oedema is a palpable swelling produced by expansion of the interstitial fluid volume. That’s all well and good for the everyday health professional, but your probably sitting there going “so what does that mean exactly?”
Basically, interstitial fluid is the lubricant between all the cells, lymph tissue, different cavities throughout the body, as well as plasma within our blood. When we have excessive fluid in our body, it is drained to lymphatic vessels. This is all done by osmotic forces, where the water crosses freely across the cell membrane in order to keep an equal state throughout the cells and blood vessels.
When that process is blocked or disrupted the interstitial fluid has no where to go and so the increase in body tissue begins. Some of the ways this can occur are:
- Increased capillary leakage
The tiny blood vessel in our body have become more permeable and the fluid can travel much more easily than it should. This means major leakage, leading to oedema.
- Increased capillary hydrostatic pressure
Hydrostatic pressure is the pressure of our blood inside the blood vessels. Not only does this help maintain the flow that pushes the blood around our body, but it also forces the water out of the vessels. When we increase this pressure, what does it do? Not only does it help push that blood around faster, but it also increases the amount of fluid or water pushed out into the cells. This is how oedema commonly occurs in most people, normally by standing upright for long periods of time, but once you begin moving again that fluid will be quickly reabsorbed.
- Obstruction of the lymph glands
This is commonly known as lymphoedema (lymph = lymph tissue, oedema = well you get the point). When this occurs it could be because the lymphatic channels have been surgically removed, or that they are blocked. Blockage can occur from trauma to the area or even infection of the lymph.
So there you have it. A very brief explanation of oedema.