When too much fluid is trapped in the body's tissues, it causes swelling, or edema. Any area of the body is susceptible to edema. Yet the legs and feet are more prone to exhibit it.

Edema can be brought on by medications and pregnancy. It may also be the outcome of a condition like cirrhosis of the liver, congestive heart failure, renal disease, venous insufficiency, or kidney disease.

Edema is frequently treated with compression clothing and salt restriction in the diet. An illness must also be treated when it results in edema.

Edema: Causes

Edema develops when the body's capillaries, which are microscopic blood vessels, release fluid. In the tissues close by, the fluid accumulates. Swelling results from the leak.

Mild instances of edema can be brought on by −

  • Much time is spent seated or in one posture

  • Eating overly salty foods

  • Being in this period

  • Being expecting

An adverse effect of certain medications is edema. They consist of −

  • Medications for high blood pressure

  • Drugs that are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory

  • Steroids as medications.

  • Estrogens

  • Thiazolidinediones are a class of diabetic medications

  • Pharmaceuticals are used to relieve nerve pain

Edema may occasionally signal a more serious ailment. Edema-causing conditions include −

  • Enlarged heart disease. One or both of the heart's bottom chambers quit effectively pumping blood when it suffers from congestive heart failure. Blood may therefore pool in the legs, ankles, and feet, leading to edema.

  • The stomach region may enlarge as a result of congestive heart failure. The lungs may get flooded with fluid as a result of this illness. This condition, called pulmonary edema, can cause breathing difficulties.

  • Liver injury. Cirrhosis-related liver impairment can result in fluid accumulation in the stomach region. in the legs, too. Ascites is the medical term for this fluid accumulation in the abdomen.

  • Kidney illness. Salts and moisture can accumulate in the blood as a result of kidney illness. Edema associated with the renal disease typically affects the legs and the area around the eyes.

  • Kidney injury. Nephrotic syndrome can be brought on by injury to the kidneys' small blood capillaries that filter the blood. Edema can develop in people with nephrotic syndrome as a result of low blood protein levels.

  • Vascular weakness or injury in your legs. Insufficiency of the chronic veins damages the one-way valves in the leg. One-way valves maintain one-way blood flow. Blood might collect in the leg veins due to damaged valves, which results in edema.

  • DVT is commonly known as deep vein thrombosis. A blood clot in one of the leg veins may cause sudden swelling in one leg and discomfort in the calf muscle. DVT needs immediate medical attention.

  • Difficulties with the body's system for removing surplus fluid from tissues. The lymphatic system may not drain effectively if it has been compromised, such as by cancer surgery.

  • Severe and persistent protein deficiency. Edema can develop if there is a chronically low protein intake in the diet

Edema: Symptoms

The patient with edema mainly presents with the following symptoms that include −

  • Under-skin tissue swelling or puffiness, especially in the legs or arms.

  • Glossy or stretched skin.

  • Pitting is the term for skin that forms a dimple after being squeezed for a short period.

  • The size of the stomach region expands.

  • Leg heaviness is experienced.

When to Visit a Doctor?

Make an appointment to visit a doctor if your skin is swollen, stretched, glossy, or retains a dimple when you push it. Consult a medical professional straight away if you have any of the following symptoms −

  • Respiration difficulty

  • Abnormal heartbeat

  • Ache in the chest

Several symptoms of pulmonary edema, or fluid accumulation in the lungs, may be present. It may be fatal, thus prompt medical attention is required.

If you have persistent leg discomfort and swelling after spending a lot of time sitting down, such as on a lengthy flight, consult your healthcare physician. These symptoms, also known as deep vein thrombosis, or DVT might indicate a blood clot deep in the vein, particularly if the pain and swelling are just on one side.

Edema: Risk Factors

Several factors play an important role in the development of edema which includes −

  • Being expecting

  • Taking certain medications

  • Having a chronic sickness, such as liver, renal, or congestive heart failure

  • Having a lymph node surgically removed

Edema: Diagnosis

The diagnosis of the edema is mainly done based on history and some of the tests may be required for confirmation and to rule out underlying causes

A healthcare professional will do a physical examination and inquire about your medical history to determine the source of your edema. This may be sufficient to identify the reason. Blood tests, ultrasounds, vein studies, and other procedures may occasionally be necessary for diagnosis.

Edema: Treatment

The treatment is based on the severity of the symptoms. Mild edema frequently disappears on its own. Compression clothing and lifting the injured arm or leg above the heart are helpful.

The worst kinds of edema can be treated with drugs that help the body eliminate excess fluid through urination. Furosemide is among the most widely used diuretics or water tablets. The requirement for water tablets can be determined by a medical professional.

Over time, the focus is frequently on treating the swelling's underlying cause. If a medication causes edema, for instance, a healthcare professional may adjust the dosage or hunt for an alternative medication that doesn't.

Edema: Prevention

Some of the measures that can help to prevent edema include −

  • Raise. Raise the enlarged area of the body above the level of the heart. Raising the swelling region as you sleep may occasionally be beneficial.

  • Massage. Firm pressure applied toward the heart while massaging the afflicted region may aid in the drainage of fluid.

  • Protect. Maintain the enlarged area clean and injury-free. Apply cream or lotion. Skin that is dry and cracked is more prone to scrapes, wounds, and infection. If the swelling is often on the feet, always wear socks or shoes.

  • Reduce salt consumption. Limiting salt is something a healthcare professional may discuss. Salt can aggravate edema by causing more fluid to accumulate.


As was already mentioned, several diseases can induce edema, including heart, liver, renal, thyroid, and other vascular aetiologies. As a result, the focus of the first work-up should be on eliminating any major organ system failure as the underlying cause. Depending on the suspicion of an underlying condition, it is crucial to confer with an interprofessional team of experts, such as a cardiologist, gastroenterologist, nephrologist, and others, if a systemic disease is suspected.

The nurses are also essential members of the interprofessional team since they will keep tabs on the patient's daily development by keeping track of their weights, fluid intake, and output, especially if they are taking diuretics. If a patient is taking antibiotics or anticoagulants, the pharmacist will make that the patient is receiving the proper dosage and has no hidden drug allergies.

Dr. Durgesh Kumar Sinha
Dr. Durgesh Kumar Sinha


Updated on: 18-Apr-2023


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