What is Dropsy?
Dropsy disease is the accumulation of fluid in cavities of the body or cellular tissues. The effects of Dropsy disease are usually at the end of the day as the fluid tends to get deposited in the lower part of the body often feet and lower legs. (1)
Causes of Dropsy:
Both pathological and Physiological conditions lead to dropsy. Fluids leaking in the body cause the tissues to swell and cause inflammation in the body. Dropsy can be seen with:
- Consumption of salty foods
- Premenstrual symptoms
- Prolonged standing for long hours
- Certain medications such as estrogens, steroids, NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), Medicines for high blood pressure and diabetes drugs like thiazolidinedione.
- Presence of specific oils like agrimony oil was also found to cause dropsy in individual patients. In an epidemic that occurred in Delhi, there were numerous cases of oedema. Later it was found that Dropsy occurred due to the contamination of mustard oil with agrimony oil. (2)
- Heart Failure: CHF or congestive heart failure leads to Dropsy of the heart as the heart fails to pump the blood to the body parts. Blood collects in the lower portion of the body. In case the blood gets accumulated in the lungs, it causes oedema of the lungs or pulmonary dropsy
- Liver damage: Leads to the deposit of fluid in the legs and abdomen, known as ascites.
- Kidney Damage: Kidney damage affects the blood vessels of the organ and leads to nephrotic syndrome. Problem with the kidney function can lead to a decreased protein or albumin levels in the blood. The protein deficiency in the blood causes oedema. Protein is produced by Liver.
- Kidney diseases occur when sodium level and fluid levels are increased in the blood. Kidney diseases lead to dropsy or swelling around eyes and legs.
- Vein Damage: This issue is accompanied by venous insufficiency affecting the flow of blood causing oedema. This condition occurs when the veins become weak and damaged and impair the blood flow to lower body parts or legs. This type of state is severe and requires immediate medical attention when there is swelling in one leg and sudden pain in calf muscles.
- Lymphatic system issues: This issue occurs with the inability of the lymph and lymph nodes to properly drain the body fluids resulting in oedema in body parts.
Classification of Dropsy:
Types of Dropsy depends on the cause of oedema or the affected body part due to fluid accumulation.
Refers to the excess fluid gathering in the legs, ankles and feet mostly lower parts of the body instead of the centre of the body
It is the accumulation of fluids in the open spaces, and alveoli of the lungs
This occurs due to the fluid collection around the eye region. This type of dropsy usually causes puffiness around the eyes. This often happens in the morning.
This occurs around the lungs. It happens around fluid-filled spaces around the lungs called as pleural cavity.
This is the fluid accumulation in the abdominal cavity surrounding liver, stomach and intestines.
This is the oedema of the tissues and cavities at the same time
Further Edema is also classified as Pitting or Non-Pitting Edema:
It is one of the most common oedemata in which if we apply pressure to the affected area or the swollen area, the indentation or the depression is left for some time, and it takes some time to stabilise.
On pressing the swollen skin does not leave an indentation. Non –pitting oedema occurs in legs and arms, and this usually happens in patients with lymphedema, hypothyroidism. Non-pitting oedema is difficult to treat. Elevating the legs periodically and wearing compression stockings helps in curing.
Symptoms of Dropsy:
Dropsy is characterised by puffiness or swelling around the affected area like legs, abdomen or eyes. Other Dropsy symptoms include:
- Distention, enlargement or swelling of the extremities or legs
- Skin tightening in the affected area
- The appearance of shiny or gloomy skin
- Skin depression in the affected part
- Abdominal pain
- Chest pain
- Reduction in Urine output
- Breathlessness or panting of the person
The dropsy treatment mainly involves changing the lifestyle and some home remedies: (3)
Lower Sodium intake:
Sodium is the primary cause of increased retention of fluid in the body. Sodium tends to absorb fluids which cause the body to swell. Sodium retention in the tissues can be reduced by reducing the consumption of sodium in the food. One should reduce the intake of outside food or canned food and should prefer a home-cooked meal. Even the fruits and vegetables should be freshly cut.
Exercising and doing body movements and physical activities help in reducing the fluid accumulation in the extremities of the body and helps in shifting the body fluid to other body parts. The affected person should follow physical exercise routine like walking, light exercise, yoga or swimming depending on the interest.
Avoid caffeine and Carbonated drinks:
Person should avoid caffeinated or carbonated beverages as these drinks have higher sodium content and can cause fluid retention in the body.
People having issues of oedema should not sit or stand for more extended hours as it leads to accumulation of body fluid or dropsy in the lower parts of the body
Avoiding working in heat:
People suffering from Dropsy should avoid working in hotter conditions as the warm temperature leads to dilation of blood vessels leading to the flow of fluids towards the extremities like legs and hands
Keep the body parts elevated:
Person should keep the affected parts at an elevated position above the heart level whenever it is possible. While sleeping as well, one should use a pillow or a cushion to keep the affected body parts like legs and hands above the level of the heart.
Light massage of the affected area can also help to reduce the fluid accumulation. A gentle massage can make the fluid move away from the affected part. Usually, the massage should be done in the direction of the heart. One can use flaxseed oil or tea tree oil along with some other oil to increase the benefits.
Compression garments for the affected areas like legs, hands, arms and feet can reduce the fluid retention in these areas. It can help the fluids to force up or move away from the affected areas and thus preventing the fluid from collecting in the nearby tissues.
The areas susceptible to oedema should be protected from any injury or dryness as it may lead to inflammation.
Lime water compress:
Applying a compress to the affected part can help reduce oedema. Repeat the compression several times every day to help reduce the oedema
Pineapple is a natural diuretic which helps to remove harmful toxins from the body. One should add more pineapple in their diets to help improve the function of Kidneys.
Inclusion of many herbs in the diet also helps reduce oedema of the body parts. These rely on natural herbs like Arjuna, Indian squill and dandelion to help reduce oedema. While using these remedies, people should be cautious of the allergies due to them.
Apple Cider vinegar:
Having one – two spoons of apple cider vinegar mixed with water twice a day can reduce oedema; it has an anti-inflammatory property and also helps to accumulate potassium in the body. Low potassium levels in the body are one of the primary reasons for the increase in fluid retention.
Bathing in warm water along with Epsom salt helps in reducing oedema and toxins level in the body
Adding parsley to the dishes can help maintain the balance of salts in the body like potassium and sodium. Parsley is a natural diuretic and can also be added to a hot tea. Parsley leaves can be crushed to form a paste and can be applied to the affected body parts for 10 minutes twice a day.
Flaxseeds and coriander:
Addition of flaxseeds or coriander to warm water and to drink it once cooled helps in reducing inflammation. Both Flaxseeds and cilantro have an anti-inflammatory property and also helps to improve blood circulation in the body.
Drinking plenty of water:
Drinking plenty of water helps to keep the body hydrated as well as it helps in reducing the effects of caffeine and sodium in the body as these causes inflammation.
Bloodletting from the body:
This was also one of the ancient ways of treating Dropsy which included the use of leeches or venesection to let out the blood. Although, this treatment is now outdated owing to the many other home remedies having a better treatment. (4)
For treating Dropsy, it is essential to study the underlying causes of dropsy and treat them along with the use of home remedies for dropsy. However mild oedema can be treated using these simple home remedies.