Swelling is the enlargement of organs, skin, or other body parts. It is caused by a buildup of fluid in the tissues. The extra fluid can lead to a rapid increase in weight over a short period of time (days to weeks).
Swelling can occur all over the body (generalized) or only in one part of the body (localized).
Follow your doctor's treatment recommendations. If you have long-term swelling, ask your doctor about the options to prevent skin breakdown, such as:
Lamb's wool pad
Continue with your everyday activities. When lying down, keep your arms and legs above your heart level, if possible, so the fluid can drain. However, do not do this if you get shortness of breath. See your doctor instead.
Call your health care provider if
If you notice any unexplained swelling, contact your health care provider.
What to expect at your health care provider's office
Except in emergency situations (such as cardiac failure or pulmonary congestion), your health care provider will take your medical history and will perform a physical examination.
Medical history questions may include:
When did you first notice this?
Do you have it all the time?
Does it come and go?
How much swelling is there?
When you poke the area with a finger, does the dent stay?
Is it overall or in one area (localized)?
If swelling is in a specific area, what is that area?
Linda Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.