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Valarie, Nurse (RN)
Category: Health
Satisfied Customers: 1228
Experience:  36+ yrs exprience medical, surgical, wound/skin care, nutrition, geriatrics, rehab, management
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What is the treatment for edema? My mother-in-law recently

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What is the treatment for edema? My mother-in-law recently had surgery. She was paralyzed on her left arm and leg from a prior stroke, and currently both legs, feet and hands are swollen. Her left arm is also swollen. The doctors say her heart is functioning well and she has no blood clots in her legs, according to a recent ultrasound. She was on intravenous fluids until 3 days ago, so she's had a lot of fluids pumped into her body. Kidneys are working and 2 days ago she was given a water pill. Yesterday the doctor said she may not have enough protein, which would absorb more liquids, according to him. What do you make of all this?

Your answer will be satifactory if it is more specific than what I have read on the internet already.

Submitted: 6 years ago.
Category: Health
Expert:  Valarie replied 6 years ago.

Hello. Thank you for coming to JustAnswer with your question, and welcome.

The doctor is talking about a deficiency in protein that is common in the elderly with chronic diseases, mainly because they don't eat enough. There are other causes as well, other common causes are kidney problems, and heart failure. If the protein in the blood is too low, fluids tend to shift into the spaces between cells in the rest of the body. So you will see generalized edema, meaning the swelling is all over her body.

This is hard to alleviate. The usual treatment is to try to correct her nutritional deficiency in protein and give her diuretics. However, keep in mind that a body, especially one that is very old such as your mother-in-law can only handle so much medication, or diuretic. The medication can very easily cause side effects, or may not even work if her kidneys are not functioning well. Medical management of this type of edema depends on the underlying cause.

Her recent IV fluid therapy may have also aggravated the condition.

For you, the major concern would be to get her to eat enough protein and calories to boost her albumin (protein) levels. But, here again, specific dietary needs also depend on the underlying condition causing the protein deficit. If her doctor is saying that the problem is only because her protein is low (and not because she has impaired kidneys), then you can simply attempt to get her to eat more protein foods. Calories will also help the body utilize the protein where it is needed, rather than using it for energy. Also, she would need plenty of fluids to go along with the diet.

Having had many, many elderly patients in my lifetime, I can tell you that this may be much more difficult than it sounds. So, I wish you and your mother-in-law all the best.

Valarie and 2 other Health Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 6 years ago.
Thank you for your response. My major concern is...can edema be fatal?
Expert:  Valarie replied 6 years ago.

Hi, you're very welcome, and thank you. Sorry for the delay.

Its not so much the edema that is fatal, its the condition that is causing the edema that would be the cause of death. Edema, however is not to be ta***** *****ghtly. Edematous tissues can cause much discomfort, tissue destruction, pressure on surrounding tissues or organs......

But, the amount of edema is more a "sign" that the condition causing it is worsening, or out of control.

Also, edema is some areas can cause fatality, such as edema in the lungs for example, or around the heart.