What is edema?

Edema occurs when excess fluid collects in the tissues of your body, resulting in swelling of the feet, fingers, hands, legs and other parts of the body. Fluid builds up as a result of leaking from capillaries, the tiny blood vessels that join the arterial system (carrying oxygenated blood from the heart) to the venous system (that returns deoxygenated blood to the heart and lungs). The capillaries can leak fluid into the tissues because of tissue damage, inflammation, increased fluid pressure, or a decrease in serum albumin, the major protein in blood, which acts to retain fluid within the circulatory system.

Edema may occur during pregnancy. It may also be caused by heart disease (congestive heart failure), kidney disease, cirrhosis (due to chronic liver disease, such as from hepatitis or alcoholism), lymph node swelling, and trauma such as burns. Excess sodium intake can also increase the amount of fluid retained by the kidneys, increasing the pressure within the capillaries and promoting fluid leakage.

Symptoms of edema include swelling in the hands, feet and legs, although it can occur anywhere in the body. The skin may appear stretched, shiny, or dimpled, especially after being pressed. The extent and severity of edema depend upon the underlying cause and the individual’s underlying medical condition.

Edema occuring in the lungs (pulmonary edema) can be life threatening. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) for serious symptoms, such as chest pain or pressure, difficulty breathing, or inability to catch your breath.


What are the symptoms of edema?

Edema causes swelling in the skin of the hands, legs, fingers and ankles. These are the most common sites, although edema can occur in all parts of the body.

Common symptoms of edema

Common symptoms of edema include:

  • Abdominal bloating
  • Dimples under the skin that remain after being pressed or pinched
  • Increased dimensions of affected b... Read more about edemasymptoms


What causes edema?

Edema occurs as a result of fluid buildup in the tissues due to a number of different causes. Leakage of fluids into body spaces may occur because of increased pressure within the circulatory system, blockages in blood flow, decrease in albumin (protein) levels in the blood, or damage to tissues.

Edema may occur during pregnancy. It may also be caused by heart disease (congestive ... Read more about edemacauses


How is edema treated?

Treatment for edema includes medications, such as diuretics, which limit retention of water or increase urine output by the kidneys. Other medications may be necessary to treat the underlying cause of the condition. Other treatments for edema include reduction of salt from your diet, elevating your legs to minimize swelling, and wearing support stockings.

Treatments for edema<... Read more about edematreatments

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Aug 9, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Heart, Blood and Circulation