What is anasarca?

Table of Contents

  1. Definition of anasarca
  2. Treatment of anasarca
  3. Diuretics
  4. Albumin
  5. Recovery
  6. What are the causes?
  7. Capillary leak syndrome
  8. A side effect of medication
  9. Anasarca symptoms
  10. How is anasarca diagnosed?
  11. Takeaway

Definition of anasarca

Treatment

Causes

Symptoms

Diagnosis

Takeaway

Anasarca is general swelling of the whole body that can occur when the tissues of the body retain too much fluid. The condition is also known as extreme generalized edema.

Accumulation of fluid may occur due to any illnesses and conditions that change the proteins of the body, affect the balance of fluids, or create abnormalities in the blood vessels or lymphatic system.

Often, if anasarca is present, it is a sign of severe organ damage or illness.

Definition of anasarca

Doctor looking at medical clipboard to diagnose anasarcaAnasarca is a symptom of a condition, and may be diagnosed with a physical assessment.

It is helpful to understand that anasarca is not a disease itself. Instead, it is a symptom or result of a medical condition.

Anasarca is different than typical edema. Almost everyone experiences swelling at some time, which can be due to a variety of causes, such as an injury, dehydration, or a minor side effect of medication.

In many instances, swelling or edema may only affect a specific part of the body, such as the feet, hands, or legs.

But with anasarca, the swelling involves the whole body and is considered severe. For example, the swelling is often so severe it makes movement difficult.

Treatment of anasarca

It is essential to find out what is causing anasarca to treat it accurately. For example, if kidney disease is causing anasarca, treatment is needed to assist kidney function.

Also, doctors often prescribe medications to treat the severe swelling.

Diuretics

Doctors often prescribe drugs called diuretics. Diuretics work by helping the kidneys release more salt into the urine, which causes the release of more fluid through urination.

The two main types of diuretics prescribed for anasarca include potassium-sparing and loop diuretics. Diuretics are either taken by mouth or given through an intravenous line (IV). The choice of diuretic, the dose, and the route of administration vary according to the severity of the swelling and the underlying condition that is causing anasarca.

Albumin

Albumin is a protein made by the body that is necessary for a variety of important functions, including balancing fluid. In cases of poor nutrition and certain serious medical conditions, the level of albumin can become too low. When this occurs fluid from the bloodstream is pushed out into the tissues causing swelling. In some cases, replacing albumin can help correct this problem.

Recovery

A doctor may recommend additional home treatments to speed recovery. Monitoring fluid and salt intake is important to prevent any swelling from getting worse. Salt can increase fluid retention, which is why people who have severe edema need to reduce their salt intake.

Everything you need to know about edemaEverything you need to know about edema
Swelling caused by fluid retention is known as edema, learn more about it here.
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What are the causes?

intravenous fluids applied through drip attached to machinery equipment.When intravenous fluids are administered excessively, it may increase the risk of anasarca.

Anasarca can develop due to a variety of causes. Some conditions that may lead to anasarca are widespread, while others are considered rare.

The most common causes of anasarca include:

Excess administration of intravenous fluids: Intravenous fluids are often administered in the hospital to treat several conditions, such as shock, dehydration, and infection. But if the body cannot adapt to the fluids given, it can lead to severe edema

Kidney disease: When kidney function is impaired, fluid is not removed from the body adequately, which can cause anasarca.

Cirrhosis: Cirrhosis can occur due to liver failure. Liver disease can cause changes in the hormones that affect fluid regulation in the body. When the liver does not work as efficiently as it should, it can cause fluid to leak into the tissues.

Malnutrition: Malnutrition, specifically protein deficiency in the diet, can cause fluid to accumulate in the tissues. In extreme cases, it can lead to anasarca.

Poor heart function: When the muscle of the heart does not work correctly, it affects how well the heart pumps blood throughout the body. If the heart is not pumping efficiently, it can cause fluid to build up in the tissues.

Allergic reaction: Swelling of the body can occur due to an allergic reaction. In severe reactions, anasarca can develop.

Less common causes include:

Capillary leak syndrome

Capillary leak syndrome occurs when protein and fluid leak out of the blood vessels into the tissues of the body. The cause is not well understood, but it is believed to be due to inflammation and blood vessel injury. It has been shown to occur in relation to some medications and toxins.

According to one case study, capillary leak syndrome can develop as a result of certain cancer medications, such as gemcitabine. Another case was reported following a snakebite.

A side effect of medication

Various medications can lead to anasarca. The most common types of medication that might cause swelling include steroids and blood pressure drugs, such as amlodipine. Discontinuing the medication will often resolve symptoms of anasarca as indicated in this case report.


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