General or Other | General Practice | Swelling (Symptom)


In medical parlance, swelling is the transient, enlargement or protuberance in the body and may include tumours. It can occur throughout the body (generalized), or a specific part or organ can be affected (localized).


According to cause, it may be congenital, traumatic, inflammatory, neoplastic or miscellaneous. Swelling is considered one of the five characteristics of inflammation along with pain, heat, redness, and loss of function. A body part may swell in response to injury, infection, or disease, as well as because of an underlying lump.

Swelling, especially swelling of the ankle can also occur if the body is not circulating fluid well. Generalized swelling, or massive edema (also called anasarca), is a common sign in severely ill people. Although slight edema may be difficult to detect the untrained eye, especially in an overweight person, massive edema is very obvious. Congenital swellings are present since birth, such as hemangioma, meningocele etc. Some congenital swellings may not appear since birth, but later in life, e. g. branchial cyst, dermatoid cyst, thyroglossal cyst.

Traumatic swellings develop immediately after trauma, e. g. hematoma, dislocation. Inflammatory swelling may be either acute or chronic variety. The presentations of acute swellings are redness, local fever, pain and impairment of function of the affected organ. The related lymph nodes will be affected and will show signs of acute lymphadenitis.

Chronic inflammatory swellings will show the signs of acute inflammatory swellings, but in subdued form. In this case, edema might not occur. Such swellings can be differentiated from neoplastic swellings by the fact that neoplastic swellings never recede in size, but inflammatory swellings may show occasional diminution. Neoplastic swellings can be either benign or malignant. While its possible for mild swelling to go away on its own, several things can be done to relieve the symptoms or hasten the process.