Condition: Swelling

Generally, swelling refers to any abnormal enlargement of a body part caused by inflammation or fluid accumulation.

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There are many types of swelling that can occur in the body. Here are some of the most common types of swelling.

Localised Swelling

Joint Swelling. There are three main reasons why a joint may become swollen:

  • Trauma to the joint either by direct impact, or a sudden unpredictable movement, that makes the joint move outside its normally capabilities. When trauma occurs white blood cells at the site of the damage release many chemicals as part of an ‘inflammatory response’. Blood vessels become dilated and a watery fluid is created in the tissues. This is the observed swelling and will resolve as the joint settles down and heals.
  • Haematoma (bruise) – we are all familiar with bruising. A simple trauma damages the small blood vessels under the skin and the blood escaping causes the colourful swelling. The colour changes, through black, to blue to yellew occur as the blood is broken down. If blood vessels in the deeper tissues, or a muscle are damaged then a large bruise can form, known as a haematoma. This can make the muscle swollen, hard and painful until it heals. If blood vessels are damaged in a joint, the joint swells and this is called a haemarthrosis.
  • Infection – if the skin over a joint is damaged, bugs can penetrate the soft tissues and invade the joint. This causes a slightly different sort of white cell reaction to fight the germs and the thick liquid resulting is called pus. Infection can also be ‘blood borne’, where the bugs enter the body at some other place, perhaps breathed in by the lungs. They enter the bloodstream and can ‘jump off’ at any point. If they enter a joint then a specific swelling of the infected variety may result.

Swollen ankles.

  • As we get a little older the veins in our legs get a little weaker and baggy. The blood does not return to the heart as effectively as it ought to and watery fluid leaks out of the veins into the soft tissues causing swelling.
  • If the RIGHT sided of the heart is not pumping as well as it used to, the back pressure in the veins causes again causes the water to leak out from the blood vessels into the soft tissues causing swelling.

Generalised swelling

This is where the whole body may swell up, which could be cause by a variety of different things:

  • Allergic reactions – if any substance taken into the body whether food, medicine or chemical causes an allergic reaction, then the whole body may swell. The swelling occurs because all of the body’s blood vessels become dilated and thin-walled, allowing the water content of the blood to leak out. This can be very dangerous should it causes swelling in the lungs and around the windpipe.
  • Medical conditions – there are many medical conditions in which generalised swelling may occur. Anything from malnutrition to liver failure. Naturally a thorough medical examination and investigations would reveal the cause and lead to the appropriate treatment.