Edema is a medical term referred to swelling. Most of the body's fluids that are found outside of the cells are normally stored in two spaces; the blood vessels and the interstitial spaces. In various diseases such as edema, retention of excess fluid can accumulate in either one or both of these compartments.Although edema can affect any part of of the body, it's most commonly noticed in the hands, arms, feet, ankles and legs. Medications, infections, pregnancy all can be causes for edema. Treatment options usually require taking medications to remove excess fluid and reducing the amount of salt in foods.



Signs and symptoms of edema include:

  • Swelling
  • Stretched or shiny skin
  • Skin that retains a dimple after being pressed for several seconds
  • Stomach enlargement



Edema occurs when tiny blood vessels in the body (capillaries) leak fluid. The fluid in turn builds up in surrounding tissues, leading to swelling. Edema is caused diseases that affect the various organ systems of the body, or by local conditions involving just the affected extremities. Causes of edema include:

  • Excessive salt intake
  • Pregnancy
  • Genes
  • High altitudes
  • Sunburn
  • Side effect of certain medications
  • Menstruation or pre-menstruation

In more severe cases, edema may be a sign of a more serious underlying medical condition. These include:

  • Heart failure (due to accumulation of blood backup into the legs, ankles and feet)
  • Kidney disease (due to accumulation of excess fluid and sodium in the circulation)
  • Kidney damage (due to accumulation of fluid as a result of declining levels of protein in the blood)
  • Liver damage (due to accumulation of fluids in the abdominal cavity and in the legs)
  • Inadequate lymphatic system (due to damage to the lymph nodes and lymph vessels that help drain excess fluid)


Risk factors

Factors contributing to the risk of developing Edema include the following:

  • Pregnancy (due to the fluid needed by the fetus and placenta, a pregnant woman's body retains more sodium and water than usual, increasing the risk of edema)
  • Certain medications: high blood pressure medications, steroid drugs, estrogens, thiazolidinediones, others.
  • Certain conditions: liver disease, kidney disease, heart failure
  • Skin infections



If left untreated, edema can cause complications such as:

  • Painful swelling
  • Stiffness
  • Scarring
  • Stretched out and itchy skin
  • Trouble walking
  • Reduced blood circulation
  • Reduced elasticity of arteries, veins, joints and muscles
  • Increased risk of skin ulcers