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Acute edema is characterized as the sudden appearance of swelling to either the face, extremities, or abdominal area. This condition can be caused by cardiac or kidney problems, as well as liver failure. Pulmonary edema, which refers to a build up of fluid in the lungs, causing shortness of breath, high blood pressure, chest pain and coughing, can also lead to respiratory failure. When the cause of acute edema cannot be determined, the condition is called idiopathic edema.
Ankle swelling is another manifestation of acute edema. It can be caused by standing or sitting for long periods of time, excessive intake of sodium, and fluid retention. Ankle swelling can also be a sign of congestive heart failure, kidney disease, and circulation problems. When ankle swelling occurs, the individual needs to see his health care provider to determine the cause. When the underlying cause is diagnosed and treated, acute edema of the ankles is typically relieved.
Diagnosing cases of edema may require blood tests and medical imaging. Common blood tests used to determine the causes of acute edema include chemistry profiles, which can evaluate kidney and liver function, as well as determine the amount sodium, potassium, and magnesium in the blood stream. In addition, abnormal levels of these electrolytes can contribute to edema in the ankles and elsewhere in the body. Medical imaging diagnostic tests include ultrasounds, MRIs, and CT scans.
Treatment for edema may include diuretics, which are also known as water pills. These drugs allow the body to expel excess fluids from organs and tissues, relieving swelling in the feet, ankles, hands, and face. In addition, intravenous diuretics may be necessary in the treatment of pulmonary edema or in cases of congestive heart failure to quickly relieve symptoms. Common symptoms of congestive heart failure include edema, shortness of breath, coughing, and weakness. Without quick treatment, the patient may be at high risk for heart attack, stroke, or multiple organ failure.
Sometimes, people who have cirrhosis of the liver can experience edema of the abdomen, which is known as ascites. Although diuretic medications can be effective in eliminating excess fluid in the peritoneal cavity or abdomen, severe cases may need surgical intervention. A procedure that places tubes into the abdomen can help drain off the fluid, making it easier for the patient to breathe and to feel more comfortable.