Anasarca is the medical term used for describing general swelling of body. It is the collection of fluid in the cellular spaces of the body leading to massive swelling. This condition is totally different from slight swelling of body in specific parts like feet etc. Patients with heart failure or kidney failure may experience anasarca or massive swelling of the body. This is a severe illness and the affected patient needs immediate medical care. Unusual swelling can be the result of liver cirrhosis or temporary renal failure also.
Anasarca is not a disease but it represents the medical condition of generalized swelling or edema of the body. Gross swelling becomes evident in the body and several organs may be affected due to edema. Several types of diseases like cardiovascular and kidney problems may cause anasarca. At this stage, there would be effusion of fluid in the skin tissues. Anasarca can also be the outcome of increased retention of salt and water by the body. It is a chronic condition that requires long term care and treatment.
The major symptom of anasarca is swelling of body and effusion of fluid beneath the skin all over the body. Some of the symptoms may vary depending on the root cause of the problem. For people with kidney problems there will be additional symptoms like nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, abdominal cramps, reduced urine output, extreme tiredness, and swelling of feet and shortness of breath. For people who have chronic heart failure in addition to anasarca, there may be symptoms like shortness of breath, decreased appetite, body weakness and not getting quality sleep.
There are many medical conditions that may cause anasarca or swelling of body. Liver cirrhosis or chronic liver diseases can cause generalized swelling of the body apart from other complications. Chronic renal disease or sudden renal failure can cause high blood pressure and accumulation of salt and water in the body, leading to swelling. Certain types of chemotherapy drugs can cause swelling of body.
Severe and prolonged malnutrition and deficiency of protein can lead to anasarca. Increase in hydrostatic pressure can force the fluid from the vessels into the tissue spaces leading to edema. Similarly, decreased colloid osmotic pressure caused by reduced plasma proteins may cause fluid leakage into the tissue spaces leading to anasarca.
The doctor will complete the physical exam of the patient after listening to the symptoms. He would order for series of tests like kidney function test and liver function test if the patient has chronic problems in kidney/liver. Complete blood test, urine analysis, kidney function test and electrolyte testing are done to detect the root cause of swelling.
Based on the result of diagnosis, the method of treatment will be decided. The course of treatment may vary depending on the root cause of the problem. Diuretics are prescribed in suitable strengths for controlling high blood pressure and to increase the urine output. Any excess of fluid will be expelled by the body after taking diuretics.
There are several types of diuretics like loop diuretics, potassium sparing diuretics and thiazide diuretics. All of these medications can help in regulating the function of kidney in excreting excess of water and fluids from the body. Dialysis can be done for patients with chronic renal failure or liver problem. Surgery is the last option for people who in critical condition due to excessive body swelling.
Change in Lifestyle :
People with generalized edema due to idiopathic (unknown) reasons, can discuss with their dietician and doctor to formulate daily meal plan. Foods rich in potassium should be taken by patients who are put on diuretics. Protein rich foods like eggs, chicken, cottage cheese and broiled white fish can be taken by people with protein deficiency. Edema or excessive swelling can be managed by taking fiber rich diet which automatically improves constipation and expelling of body fluids.
Total salt intake should be reduced or restricted based on the symptoms of kidney problem. Avoid living a sedentary life and do regular exercises which can improve blood circulation. Avoid eating fatty foods, fried items and alcohol. Keeping the legs in elevated position can improve blood circulation and reduce accumulation of fluids. Follow your doctor’s advice in taking medications and changing your diet plan so that you can manage anasarca to large extent.