Anasarca is a medical term used to refer to people who experience generalized edema. Edema occurs when excess fluid builds up in your body’s tissues. This is different than the less extensive edema or swelling that may occur most often in the feet. A person with anasarca appears bloated, and when the skin is pushed in by a finger, it will not return to its normal position immediately.

Anasarca isn’t a disease of its own, but it is symptomatic of underlying medical conditions like protein deficiencies or malnutrition. It can also be caused by chemotherapeutic drugs like Doxetaxel or the administering of exogenous IV fluids. The most common medical cause for anasarca is kidney failure or heart failure.

How Does Edema Occur?

Edema may occur in disparate situations. If there is an increase in your body’s hydrostatic pressure, this pushes the body’s fluids out of the blood vessels and into your tissue. Edema may also form when the vessels experience reduced osmotic pressure, which means that fluids are not pulled to your blood vessels, and accumulate in the tissues, instead.


article-2-pic-4Increased levels of vascular permeability will allow the walls of your vessels to pass fluids through into the tissues. Since the tissue fluids are not drawn into the vessels swiftly enough, the tissues hold more fluid. Lymph vessels may be blocked by lymphatic obstruction, and the interstitial fluid can’t properly drain from your tissues. This results in a fluid accumulation in the tissue.

Renal failure and cardiac problems are among the common diseases that people all over the world experience. Edema and anasarca sometimes will occur in patients who suffer from kidney failure. This is due to a loss of urine protein, causing the kidneys to function less. This means that water and toxins may be retained within your body.

If you suffer from heart failure, you will have poor cardiac function, leading to less blood being pumped from the heart to the various parts of your body. The kidney then senses the decreased volume of blood. It compensates by retaining water and salt, which causes edema.

Your intake of salt can also cause anasarca to occur. In healthy people, salt is regulated well, and excreted through urine from the body. If you have kidney or heart failure, you should limit the amount of salt you eat, to lessen your chances of developing anasarca.

Idiopathic edema also is linked to anasarca. The cause of this condition is not known, but it affects mainly pre-menopausal women and people who have taken diuretics for extended periods of time. Diuretics may decrease edema by causing more frequent urination, but it also causes problems. Researchers believe that idiopathic edema causes capillary leaks. The fluid is passed into the interspatial spaces, causing the kidneys to retain water and salt, since it senses a decrease in blood volume.

Symptoms of Anasarca

Anasarca occurs due to underlying medical issues.

If you have congestive heart failure, your other symptoms may include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Inability to sleep in a lying position
  • Decreased appetite
  • Abdominal pain
  • Weakness of the body

If you have kidney failure, you will also experience:

  • Anemia
  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Low or no output of urine
  • Cramps
  • Overall weakness of the body
  • Swelling of ankles and feet
  • Shortness of breath

If you suffer from idiopathic edema, you will experience excessive edema in the legs when you’re standing. In addition, you may have swelling or edema around your eyes, particularly during the morning hours.

Causes of Anasarca


There are numerous causes for medical anasarca. They include:

  • Liver failure
  • Hookworms
  • Kidney failure
  • Heart failure
  • Doxetaxel and other chemotherapy drugs that are plant-based
  • Pre-eclampsia
  • Protein deficiency
  • Severe malnutrition

article-2-pic-2Treatment for Anasarca

If you have anasarca, your physician will ask for your medical history. Physical examinations will be done to determine why you suffer from this disorder. Other diagnostic tests like blood tests and EKG’s or ECG’s may be done, to see if you have congestive heart failure.

Once your physician diagnoses your anasarca and the medical reason for it, treatment will begin. It may consist of:


  • Thiazide diuretics are potent diuretics that stimulate parts of your kidney to excrete excess water. One example of this type of drug is Hydrochlorothiazide.
  • Potassium is excreted through urine, and is needed in the body. When you take a potassium sparing drug, your body will not excrete potassium. Some of the common types of this drug include Triamterene and Spironolactone.
  • Loop diuretics are given so that more excess water can be excreted through urination. These drugs stimulate the area of your kidney known as the loop of Henle, which regulates water and salt as it forms urine. Some often-used loop diuretics are Butethamine, Torsemide and Furosemide.

Diet Alterations and Home Remedies

  • Alfalfa is a good source of chlorophyll. This is a powerful detoxifier. 2,000 to 3,000 milligrams a day are generally recommended.
  • Since most diuretics cause potassium excretion, you will need to eat high potassium foods. These include tomatoes, orange juice, potatoes and bananas.
  • Including more fiber in your diet can help relieve edema.
  • Proteins that help in edema reduction include those found in low fat yogurt, kefir, cottage cheese, turkey or chicken (skinless), broiled whitefish and eggs.
  • Rose hips help reduce edema since they have vital bioflavonoids.
  • If you have edema after surgery, the problem may be reduced by taking horse chestnut.
  • Some natural diuretics will be helpful, including Uva Ursi, juniper, horsetails and Hawthorn berries. They increase your output of urine.
  • Saunas and exercise may lessen edema, through sweating.
  • You should restrict your intake of salt, since it causes more water retention. If you need added flavor in your foods, choose lemon instead.
  • Do not drink alcohol, eat animal proteins or chocolate, or drink milk, to help in the reduction of edema.
  • When you’re relaxing in your home, elevate your feet. This relieves edema and increases venous return.
  • Limiting your fluid intake is helpful if you have congestive heart failure and chronic renal failure. Excess fluids can cause further edema and lead to difficulties in breathing.
  • Wear support hose if you have edema.

Treating Anasarca’s Underlying Medical Conditions

If you have anasarca, your physician will address your conditions, and they cannot be neglected. If you have renal failure, in addition to medications, you may have dialysis. You may need to have a kidney transplant.

If you have congestive heart failure, you will also have medications that help to control it. They should be taken exactly as prescribed. In some cases, you may require a device to regulate your heartbeat, like a pacemaker. The final option for this condition is a heart transplant.

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