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Edema is a condition characterized by an abnormal amounts of excessive fluid (commonly water and sodium) buildup in the body. Usually, the buildup of fluid occurs in the intercellular spaces, between the cells.

Edema usually occurs in the extremities, but it can also occur (in very slight amounts) in the brain when it is associated with allergies that cause the brain to swell and manifest as headaches, memory problems, learning disorders, or behavioral changes.

Symptoms of edema include bloating and swelling of the face, fingers, hands, legs, and, in its later stages, the abdomen. Symptoms may be very mild, causing rings on your fingers to feel tight or your face to feel puffy, or they may be severe enough to cause stretching and shininess of your skin, as well as overall weight gain.

Small amounts of fluid buildup can also occur elsewhere in the body, such as the spine (causing low back pain), the lungs (mimicking asthma/bronchitis), and the knees (mimicking arthritis), and should be a considered in a wide variety of health problems that do not respond to the normal treatments.

Edema can be caused by allergies, poor kidney excretion or secondary kidney problems related to protein absorption, vitamin B deficiencies, heart failure, or other liver and kidney disorders. All of these factors must be screened for and, if present, addressed, before long-term healing of edema can occur.

Air travel, travel to a new climate, and/or stress can also aggravate edema symptoms.

Caution: If fluid accumulation creates such stretching and bagginess of your skin that pressure it into creating a "pit"—a condition known as pitting edema—a doctor should be consulted immediately as this may be a sign of a very serious health problem.