Difference Between Edema and Lymphedema

There are as many health-related issues as there can be books in a big library. And to deal with them requires quick medical attention and sometimes long treatments and care.

Edema and Lymphedema are two health conditions that cause swelling in some specific parts of the body.

Edema vs Lymphedema

The main difference between Edema and Lymphedema is that Edema is the normal response of the body to an injury, whereas Lymphedema is a condition resulting in swelling due to the trapping of excess lymphatic fluid within tissues. They are a lot different from each other in terms of treatment, causes, and leaving marks when touched or pricked.

Edema vs Lymphedema

Edema is a condition in which the body responds to an injury or a disease and makes the specific part of the body swell up. This swelling is due to trapped fluids in the affected region. It can be cured by diuretics. And much surprisingly, it doesn’t even leave marks.

Lymphedema is a health condition in which the lymphatic fluid gets excessively accumulated between the body tissues and gives rise to swelling up of that region.

They do leave marks if touched by a finger and cannot be relieved by diuretics. It is even more worsened by diuretics and therefore is not used.

Comparison Table Between Edema and Lymphedema

Parameters of ComparisonEdemaLymphedema
AboutThe normal response of the body to an injury consequently swelling up of that particular part due to the flow of excessive fluids.Impairment of the lymphatic system ultimately results in the accumulation of lymphatic fluids between tissues.
CausesExcessive flow of fluids to the affected or injured region.Impairment of lymphatic system giving rise to accumulation of protein-rich lymph fluids.
TreatmentEdema gives good results on treatment with diuretics.Lymphedema does not give good results, instead worsens on treatment with diuretics.
MarksIn nonpitting edema, marks aren’t left behind when a finger is pressed against the swelling.When a finger is pressed against Lymphedema swelling, it leaves a mark and is therefore called pitting edema.
Other causesChronic venous insufficiency can also be a cause of edema and this affects the lower region of the body.There is no other cause of Lymphedema apart from an impaired lymphatic system.

What is Edema?

Edema can be generally explained as the body’s normal response or usual reaction to a wound or an injury. This injury can be anything from a sprain to even bumping into something hard.

This is a kind of healing process which involves the flow of excess fluid into the affected area. This excess fluid sometimes gets accumulated and gives rise to swelling.

After the healing process is completed, this excess fluid slowly and gradually leaves the injured part of the affected area, and swelling diminishes. This excess fluid is generally a tissue fluid that hasn’t yet come back to the circulatory system.

There can be more reasons due to which edema is caused. One of the very common causes is chronic venous insufficiency which is a circulatory system problem.

When a person is affected by chronic venous insufficiency, swelling usually occurs in the lower regions of the body. Edema can be relieved with the help of diuretic treatment in some cases.

Whereas there are some more cases in which diuretics cannot be used as efficient treatment. This kind of edema is also known as non-pitting edema as if we press a finger into it was failing, it does not tend to leave a mark.

What is Lymphedema?

Lymphedema is a lot different from Edema. Lymphedema is not just a simple swelling, but it is a condition that is a result of an impaired lymphatic system.

When this impairment reaches such an extent that it circulates more than sufficient amounts of lymphatic fluid in an area, it results in the accumulation of lymphatic fluid and gives rise to swelling of that part of the body.

There are no other causes of lymphedema other than the failure of the lymphatic system to transport the required amount of lymphatic fluid.

This lymph is protein-rich and causes swelling when it accumulates within the tissues. Tissues which are impaired by lymphedema are weak in responding to an injury.

Unlike Edema, lymphedema swelling will leave a mark if you press a finger into it, and therefore it is known as pitting edema too. Treating the affected part with diuretics cannot help in curing it, but in fact, it worsens the situation.

Main Differences Between Edema and Lymphedema

  1. Edema is the response of our body to an injury by sending excessive fluids to the affected area, which ultimately results in swelling. Lymphedema is swelling caused when the lymphatic system fails or gets impaired.
  2. Edema swelling is caused due to excessive rush of fluids to the injured part, which takes more than the required time to return to the circulatory system. On the other hand, Lymphedema is caused simply when the Lymphatic system fails, and a region of the body gets accumulated with lymphatic fluids between tissues.
  3. Edema is seen to be relieved with diuretics, whereas Lymphedema gets even worse on treatment with diuretics.
  4. When a finger is pressed edema swelling, doesn’t leave a mark and therefore is also called non-pitting edema. In contrast, in Lymphedema, if we press a finger against the swelling, it leaves a mark and is called pitting edema.
  5. Other causes of edema swelling can be chronic venous insufficiency, in which the lower regions of the body get swelled up. There are no additional causes of Lymphedema.
Difference Between Edema and Lymphedema

Conclusion

Edema and Lymphedema are two very different conditions. But since there is swelling of parts of the body in both of them, initially or at earlier stages, they might appear similar.

Quick medical attention to injuries and regular health checkups are therefore an integral aspect of a healthy lifestyle. Also, it is advised to not prick or touch swelled regions to avoid infections as well as any chances of leaving marks.

If diagnosed with Lymphedema, strict precautions and quick medical attention must be provided to the patient to deal with the situation at an early and solvable stage.

References

  1. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamasurgery/article-abstract/211579
  2. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0002961099001853
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