Edema (Shvathu)
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Introduction

 

Edema is a very prevalent condition in the western world where several millions of people are affected every year with the condition. Though the disease has been in the world since time immemorial, an effective treatment of the disorder has been developed only recently.

The bigger problem with edema is that the person does not realize when the condition is beginning to set within his or her body. In most cases there is negligence of the issue, which becomes more complicated as the time passes by. It is extremely necessary to treat edema at the earliest, for that is when the treatment is most effective.

Definition of Edema (Shvathu)

 

Edema is simply defined as the excess accumulation of fluids in the spaces between the tissues and the skin, known as the interstitial spaces. This causes an abnormal swelling or puffiness of parts of the body. Edema can occur almost anywhere in the body; but the most general swelling is observed in the hands and the feet.

Edema was earlier known as dropsy. Several people still recognize edema with this more popular name.

In Ayurveda , edema is known as shotha or shvathu. Here the disease is treated as a result of the vitiation of any one of the three fundamental doshas that govern the human body. However, there is marked difference between the symptoms of the shvathu caused due to the three doshas.

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Types of Edema (Shvathu)

Medically, there are two types of edema – the pitting type and the non-pitting type.

(i) Pitting type of Edema – The pitting edema is the common form of edema in which fluids are retained in the interstitial spaces between the tissues and the skin. This can be found out externally. If the swelling gets depressed by applying some pressure on it and then the depression remains for some time even after the pressure has been removed, then the edema is known as pitting type of edema or pitting edema.

Pitting edema is primarily caused due to problems with the vital organs of the body, which includes the heart, liver and the kidneys. Malfunctioning of these important organs can cause fluid retention due to which the swelling takes place. The basic component that is retained is sodium chloride, which is common salt. Hence regulation of the diet is very efficacious in the treatment of pitting edema.

(ii) Non pitting type of Edema – Non pitting edema is the more dangerous type of edema. In this type, there is an accumulation of solid materials in the tissue rather than fluids. Non pitting edema is also rare; it occurs as a secondary complication in people who are already suffering from some medical condition such as lymphedema or pretibial myxedema.

Non pitting edema can also be found out externally. If there is no depression on the swelling by the application of pressure on it, then the edema is non pitting edema.

There is marked similarity in the medical and Ayurvedic types of edema. Since edema can be caused due to a vitiation of all the three doshas, there are three basic types of edema or shvathu in Ayurveda . They are according to the following:-

(i) Vata type of edema – Vitiation in the vata causes the classic type of edema, i.e. the pitting type. This is usually originated from venous conditions, such as varicose veins. Pain is an important symptom of vataja edema.

(ii) Pitta type of edema – The edema caused by vitiation of the pitta dosha caused inflammation of the affected region.

(iii) Kapha type of edema – Vitiation of the kaphadosha produces the most difficult type of edema, i.e. the non pitting type of edema.

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Causes of Edema (Shvathu)

Edema or shvathu can be caused due to a large number of factors. The following are some of the important factors:-

Too much salt in the diet is a very common cause of edema. Salt retention in the body is linked to pitting type of edema.

Deficiency of vitamin B-12 (cobalamin) is also a very important contributing factor to edema.

People who take excessive steroids are also at risk of fluid accumulation in their bodies, i.e. edema.

Obstruction in any of the channels of the body can cause fluid retention in that area, leading to edema. The ama vata is responsible for the edema caused due to the obstruction of the body channels.

Edema is caused due to malfunctioning of any of the vital organs, i.e. the heart, liver and the kidneys.

Standing in one place for too long can cause edema. The act of standing can pull the water in your body towards your legs. This may cause fluid retention in the limbs.

Edema is common in pregnant women.

Some diseases can cause lymph retention in the body called as lymphedema. The following are some of these diseases:-

    • Filariasis
    • Thromboflebitis
    • Trauma
    • Myxedema

Though there are so many causes of edema known to us, there are some edemas that occur due to unknown causes also. Such edemas, whose causes are yet unknown to us, are collectively known as idiopathic edema.

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Symptoms of Edema (Shvathu)

The most apparent symptom of any form of edema is the swelling of various regions of the body, most generally the hands and the legs. For a list of the different symptoms of edema – due to vata, pitta and kapha dosha – refer to the ‘types of edema’ section.

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Complications of Edema (Shvathu)

Prolonged conditions of edema can give rise to several complications in the body. The following are some of the important complications that edema can cause:-

  • Edema is fluid retention in the body; hence the overall bulk and weight of the person will increase. The person could find to move himself in the later stages.
  • Ulceration is very common among edema patients. The commonest ulcers can be found anywhere on the skin.
  • Nails tend to lose their color and become yellowish.

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Transmission of Edema (Shvathu)

Edema is a highly individualistic disorder. It occurs due to metabolic disorders within one’s own body. Hence they are not communicable from one person to another. There is also no proof that edema can be hereditarily transmitted.

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People who are at Risk of Edema (Shvathu)

Edema can target specific groups. The following is a list of some people who are at higher risks of edema than others:-

Children who suffer from kwashiorkor due to protein deficiency can develop edema. In such children the fluids are retained in the face giving rise to what is known as the ‘moon-face’ condition.

People who are deficient in the hormone thyroxin (hypothyroidism) can develop a special type of edema known as pretibial myxedema, which affects primarily the limbs.

Kidney patients must take immense care, as failure of the kidneys could cause the dangerous condition of renal edema.

Edema is also rampant among people who suffer from congestive heart failure, especially of the right side of the heart.

People suffering from tumors, lymphomas or fibrosis are also at a higher risk of getting edema than others.

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Prevention and Basic Care during Edema (Shvathu)

Edema must be prevented in time, or else the condition could aggravate to giant proportions. The following steps must be taken in order to keep edema at bay:-

  • Salt must be totally avoided in the diet, as this one ingredient of the food is highly responsible for causing the pitting type of edema.
  • One must follow strict dietary guidelines to prevent the accumulation of fluids within the body.
  • Any problem with the vital organs like the heart, lungs and kidney must be immediately brought to the notice of the doctor.

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Diet for People with Edema (Shvathu)

Obviously, diet is very important in edema. Since edema can be caused by the vitiation of any of the three major doshas, it is necessary that the diet be properly balanced so as not the exacerbate any of these doshas. The following dietary regimen is beneficial:-

Foods to have:

  • Buttermilk and ghee
  • Honey
  • Soup of castor oil
  • Bitter vegetables such as radish
  • Amlaki (Indian Gooseberry)
  • Wheat
  • Spices such as cloves

Foods to avoid:

  • Salt
  • Rice
  • Jaggery
  • Curds
  • Dry vegetables
  • Sesame oil

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Ayurvedic Treatment of Edema (Shvathu)

Ayurveda has several age-old remedies for removal of the excess fluid retention in the body, which is the condition of edema. The following is a list of some of the most potent of these herbs with their actions on the human body.

Ayurvedic Name of the Herb

Biological Name of the Herb

Common English Name of the Herb

Action on the Human Body

Alfalfa

Medicago satina

Alfalfa

Alfalfa is an effective medicine for the edema of the kidneys. It has diuretic properties and it gently flushes out the accumulated fluids in the body.

Behera

Terminalia belerica

Belleric Myroblan

Behera is used for its properties of relieving the body of unnecessary fluid retention.

Chirchita

Achyranthes aspera

Rough Chaff

Rough chaff is especially useful in the treatment of edema of the kidneys due to its diuretic properties.

Gokulakanta

Hygrophila spinosa

Gokulakanta

The ash of the gokulakanta is very beneficial in removing the excess fluids from the body. The ash is more effective if it is taken along with cow’s urine.

Kateli

Solanum xanthocarpum

Kantakari

The herb of kantakari is potent in removing the excessive fluids retained within the body. It is also a diuretic, which helps in the secretion and discharge of urine.

Makoy

Solanum nigrum

Black Nightshade

Black nightshade can be used both as a vegetable and as a decoction in the treatment of edema. The herb helps in the secretion and the discharge of urine from the body.

Tilpushpi

Digitalis purpura

Digitalis

The herb of digitalis is useful in the removal of obstructions within the urinary system. Hence it brings about better discharge of the fluids retained within the body.

The herbs mentioned above have been expertly mixed into preparations. These preparations contain just the right proportions of herbs so as not to produce major side effects. The following are some herbs that are effective in the treatment of edema:-

Type of Preparation

Name of Preparation

Asava/Arishta

Punarnavasava, Kumariasava

Bhasma/Kashaya

Prisniparanyaadi Kashaya, Dashamoola Kvatha

Choorna

Navyaasa Choorna, Punamavadi Choorna

Ghrita

Sunthi Ghritam, Chitraka Ghritam, Punarnavadi Ghritam

Vati

Punarnava Mandoor, Gokshuradi Guggulu, Amarasundara Vati

It must be borne in mind that while taking any Ayurvedic preparation, the doctor must be consulted first. Most of the herbs do not have any side-effects (and are indeed a regular part of the diet), but some people may be allergic to certain herbs and may show adverse reactions.

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Comment Script

Comments

i have edema in my left leg my angle is swollen and i have a red rash with the affected area
#1 - katherine - 05/10/2009 - 19:14
I have edema in both feet and ankles.What to do?
#2 - antonio - 08/20/2009 - 23:23
I have edema in my left foot and angle is swallen. I also have a yellowish kind of fluid on top of my left foot. What should I do?
#3 - queenlexies - 05/16/2010 - 08:40
I have had swelling of the lower legs and feet for a month. I cut out salt in my diet and it hasn't helped. The swelling is getting worse. I now have pain in my feet, ankles and lower legs.
When I use minimal pressure with my finger, the indention stays for more than a minute;.
#4 - Dee - 08/02/2010 - 19:44
I just had surgery of my arm for an ulna nerve problem. Now i have pitted edema in that area for 3 weeks.
#5 - sandy - 10/02/2010 - 19:45
my both legs are swollen since one month .I have consulted a doctor (urologist) he has given tide tablets but still swelling and pain is there.
#6 - sunrayrm - 01/11/2012 - 11:01
I had a.baby in December and have had extreme.swellig.in both legs snkles.and.feet from the knees down. Its painful to walk especially up stairs. Doctors have kept prescribing antibiotis telling me its cellulitis or a infecof.some type.but nnothing has helped. My legs are triple the.size and look shiny and.like the skin is going to explode. It hurts 5o.even sit down its been 3 months now has anyone else.experienced this awful provlem.and what would.help.me get.better or somewhat get.back to.normal. thanks ahead of.time
#7 - Shelby - 04/06/2012 - 13:06
use punarnava mandur+ arogyvardhini tab
#8 - Dr. Rajesh - 11/22/2012 - 23:37
i have been having non pitting edema of whole body since about 20 months. It started one day after right mastectomy. I would appreciate if you could tell me what this could be. I did not need any radiation or chemo. thank you.
#9 - shubha - 03/04/2013 - 02:56
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