Edema (swelling) is a common symptom in patients with Kidney Disease. It is a factor that one has to contend with when his/her kidneys fail. Your healthy kidneys help to remove the waste and excessive water from your body, and since damaged kidneys do not work well, they cause water retention in Kidney Disease patients.
One of the major causes of edema is a heavy loss of protein in the urine (proteinuria). Protein has a natural ability to capture water in the body which causes kidney patients with proteinuria to experience swelling in the face, eye, feet, ankle, etc. There are some self management measures that can help with the prevention and recovery of swelling such as:
- Use a cold compress. Its use is known to significantly reduce swelling in areas such as those of the eyes, upper cheeks and upper nose. It also works well for upper lip swelling. To make a cold compress, simply get some ice cubes and place them in a plastic bag. Then warp the bag with a clean towel, and apply it to the swollen area.
- Massaging is also helpful. Accumulation of excess fluid in the tissue results in swelling. Gently massaging the swollen area would help stimulate blood circulation there by reducing the edema. Ensure that you apply gentle, but firm pressure while massaging.
- Wearing compression socks, sleeves and gloves enhances blood flow in the swollen area, and improves the symptoms. This works well by maintaining pressure in the affected areas, preventing them from accumulating more fluid.
- Keep the swollen hand or leg elevated. For example, if your legs are swollen, keep them at an elevated position with the help of two or three pillows. This should be done at a minimum of thirty (30) minute intervals, if possible.
Besides taking the corrective steps above, there are some preventative measures below which you can adopt to better manage your edema.
- Reducing sodium by minimizing salty foods, as well as making fresh fruits and vegetables a large part of your diet instead of foods that are high in fat.
- Physical activities which help move the muscles in the swollen part of the body also adds to the treatment. However, such activities work well when done under the guidance of a professional. Exercise helps improve circulation (via muscular contractions), and without exercise, the fluid tends to pool into the lower extremities such as the legs and feet. Aerobic and cardio exercises (brisk walking or swimming) of light to moderate intensity, 4-5 times a week, are the best options.
- It is equally important to be aware that exposure to extreme temperatures may worsen your edema. That is why you are advised to avoid hot showers, saunas, and freezing temperatures.