Edema: Causes, Symptoms, & Prevention


What Is Edema?

The medical term for swelling is “edema.” Injuries and inflammation cause body parts to swell. It might affect a small portion of the body or the full body. Edema can be caused by medications, pregnancy, infections, and a variety of other medical issues. Edema occurs when fluid leaks from your small blood vessels into the tissues around them. The tissue swells as the additional fluid builds up. It can occur anywhere on the body.

Types of Edema

Edema comes in a variety of forms. Each can be a sign of a range of other health issues. Let’s look at a few examples.

Peripheral Edema

This is most commonly seen in the legs, feet, and ankles, although it can also occur in the arms. It could indicate an issue with your cardiovascular system, lymph nodes, or kidneys.

Pedal Edema

Fluid builds up in your feet and lower legs, causing this. If you’re older or pregnant, it’s more common. Because you may not have as much feeling in your feet, it can make moving around more difficult.

Pulmonary Edema

Pulmonary edema occurs when fluid gathers in the air sacs of the lungs. It’s difficult to breathe as a result of this, and it’s worse while you’re lying down. You might experience a racing heart, feel smothered, and cough up foamy, bloody spittle.

Cerebral Edema

Fluid builds up in the brain, causing this very severe illness. It can occur if you hit your head hard, a blood vessel becomes clogged or breaks, or you have a tumor or an allergic reaction.


Damage to your lymph nodes, which remove germs and waste from your body, is the most common cause of swelling in your arms and legs. Cancer therapies such as surgery and radiation may have caused the damage. Cancer can also obstruct lymph nodes, causing fluid to build up.

Macular Edema

closeup image of the eyeThis happens when fluid builds up in the macula, which is located in the center of the retina, which is the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye. It also occurs when blood vessels in the retina become damaged and leak fluid.
Edema can also occur in other places, however, the ones listed above are the most prevalent. It could also be a sign of a number of other major health problems. If you are concerned about any form of swelling, you should consult a doctor.

Symptoms of Edema

  • Swelling or puffiness of the tissue just underneath the skin, particularly in the legs or arms
  • Weight gain or loss
  • High blood pressure
  • Confusion and laziness
  • Skin that is stretched or glossy
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Stiff joints and aching body parts
  • Headache
  • Change in bowel habits
  • Skin that keeps a dimple (pits) after being pushed for several seconds
  • Abdominal enlargement

Symptoms vary depending on the underlying cause, the type of edema, and the location of the edema.

Causes of Edema

Edema can be caused by a variety of factors, including circulatory problems, infection, tissue death, malnutrition, kidney disease, total body fluid overload, and electrolyte imbalances.

Kidney Disease

A kidney problem may prevent a person from excreting enough fluid and sodium from the blood. As a result of the increased strain on the blood vessels, some of the liquid leaks out. Swelling around the legs and eyes is common.

Nephrotic Syndrome

Nephrotic syndrome is caused by damage to the glomeruli, which are capillaries in the kidneys that filter waste and excess fluids from the blood. A low level of the protein albumin in the blood is one sign of this. Edema can occur as a result of this.


The body produces hormones that increase fluid retention during pregnancy, and a woman retains more sodium and water than usual. Swelling of the face, hands, lower limbs, and feet is possible. The larger uterus might push on a vein known as the inferior vena cava while a woman is resting in a reclined position during pregnancy. This can cause edema by obstructing the femoral veins. Blood clots more easily during pregnancy. Deep venous thrombosis (DVT), another cause of edema, might be increased as a result of this. Edema can also be caused by eclampsia, which is caused by pregnancy-induced hypertension, or high blood pressure.

Liver Disease

Cirrhosis has an impact on liver function. It can cause changes in hormone and fluid-regulating chemical secretion, as well as a reduction in protein creation. Fluid leaks from blood vessels into the surrounding tissue as a result of this. Cirrhosis also raises the pressure in the portal vein, which brings blood into the liver from the intestines, spleen, and pancreas. Edema can affect the legs as well as the abdomen.

Prescription Drugs

Some drugs that make you more vulnerable include:

  • medicines that dilate blood arteries (vasodilators)
  • calcium channel blockers
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs)
  • estrogens
  • chemotherapy drugs
  • diabetes drugs such as thiazolidinediones (TZDs)

Heart Failure

Blood can build in the limbs if one or both of the lower chambers of the heart are unable to pump blood effectively. This may result in edema.


Edema is a common side effect of allergic responses. Nearby blood vessels leak fluid into the affected area in response to the allergen.

Dietary Factors

burgerWhen persons who are prone to edema consume too much salt, they risk suffering edema.
Edema can occur as a result of low protein levels in the blood, malnutrition, or a deficiency of vitamins B1, B6, and B5

Complications of Edema

  • Swelling that becomes increasingly painful
  • Difficulty walking
  • Rigidity
  • Stretched skin that can be irritating and uncomfortable
  • Infection risk is higher in the swollen area
  • Scarring between tissue layers
  • Blood circulation is reduced.
  • Arteries, veins, joints, and muscles lose elasticity.
  • Skin ulcers are more likely to occur

How to Treat Edema

The type of treatment will be determined by the cause of the edema. Diuretics are a class of drugs that aid in the removal of excess fluid by boosting the rate at which the kidneys produce urine. There are alternative treatments such as lifestyle and home remedies. Let’s take a look:


Moving and activating the muscles in the edema-affected area of your body, particularly your legs, can assist in pumping the excess fluid back toward your heart. Inquire with your doctor about workouts that can help you minimize swelling.


If you have edema in one of your limbs, your doctor may advise you to use compression stockings, sleeves, or gloves to avoid further swelling. These garments apply pressure to your limbs to keep fluid out of the tissue.

Maintain a clean, moist, and injury-free environment around the affected area. Scrapes, wounds, and infections are more likely on dry, cracked skin. If your feet are prone to edema, you should always wear protection.

Pressing the affected area with firm, but not painful, pressure toward your heart may assist shift the excess fluid out of that location.

Now that you Know…

Edema is a common condition. It can occur for a variety of causes, including standing for too long or suffering a minor injury. It could also be a side effect of a medicine or a sign of a more serious underlying health problem in some situations. Sufferers should discuss the cause of their swelling with their doctor and take steps to treat any underlying issues.