One issue that many of us might have to deal and that gets very little discussion is edema. Edema is swelling caused by the build up of abnormal amounts of fluids in our body. Some people refer to edema as fluid retention. We often can see the fluid building up in our legs, arms, feet, hands, lungs, face, heart and our abdomen.
In some instances edema which remains unchecked can become so severe so as to cause damage to our kidneys, heart and our lungs.
When abnormal amounts of fluids collect in your abdomen or stomach you are said to suffer from Ascities. Ascities is experienced by swelling and or puffiness over your stomach. If you suffer from Ascities you will often be able to see the veins on the skin of your stomach and will feel fuller during mealtime.
Edema is caused by general changes in your body caused by your cancer. Poor nutrition as well as some of the prostate cancer medications we take can also cause edema. Docetaxel, corticosteroids (prednisone, methylprednisolone, hydrocortisone), anabolic steroids (fluoxymesterone, testosterone, methyltestosterone), and nonsteroidal antiinflammatory agents (ibuprofen, indomethacin, naproxen, rofecoxib, celecoxib).
and thalidomidel, can all cause edema.
Edema can be very serious so call your doctor at once if you have any of the following symptoms:
* Wheezing, shortness of breath, or trouble breathing
* Chest pain or tightness
* Swelling or weight gain so that your clothes do not fit
* Rapid weight gain or gaining over 5 pounds in a single day
* Urinating smaller amounts than usual or not passing any urine
You can make some modifications in your diet to help control edema. Reduce the amount of salt you eat. Use salt substitutes and don’t add any salt to your food at your table. Eliminate fast food. Most fast food restaurants use huge and unnecessary amounts of salt.
Instead of using salt learn to use different seasonings. Lemon, pepper, and other herbs can often be substituted for salt and improve the taste of your food.
If you suffer from Ascities, instead of eating large meals, eat many smaller meals. Make sure that your meals are properly balanced. Ask your doctor for a referral to a dietician.
Ask your doctor about water intake and follow these directions.
When ever you are sitting or lying use pillows or cushions to raise your feet and legs above your heart. If you have severe edema, lie down and rest for several hours each day while you elevate your legs.
Wear elastic compression stockings during the daytime. You can buy compression stockings at medical supply stores and pharmacies. Compression stockings will help push fluid back into your system. Normal stockings or pantyhose will not work.
Sometimes your doctor will prescribe medication (diuretics) to treat your edema. Diuretics will increase the amount of water you pass in your urine. Follow the directions carefully.
Remember, edema can be serious If in doubt call your doctor.
Joel T Nowak MA, MSW