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EdemA: Major Symptoms and Causes

Dr. Qurrat Ul Ain

3 min read

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Edema is swelling caused by excess fluid trapped in your body’s tissues. It occurs when tiny blood vessels leak fluid. This fluid builds up in surrounding tissues, leading to swelling. Usually its effect is more prominent in your hands, arms, feet, ankles and legs. This swelling can also occur during pregnancy due to excess amount of salt, and can be the side effect of some medication or a sign of an underlying disease like congestive heart failure, kidney disease or cirrhosis of the liver.

Types of Edema

Peripheral edema: The main targets are the legs, feet and ankles, but arms are sometimes included in this too. Problems in the circulatory system, lymph nodes, or kidneys can be the cause of this.

Pedal edema: This is the cause of fluid gathering in the feet and lower legs. It is more prevalent in older or pregnant individuals. It can partly make it difficult to move around because it takes away some feeling from the feet.

Lymphedema: This causes arms and legs to swell and is usually caused by damage to the lymph nodes and tissues, that are aid in filtering germs and waste form the body. Lymphedema can be a consequence of cancer treatments such as surgery and radiation. Fluid build up and lymph nodes’ blockage can also be caused by cancer itself.

Pulmonary edema: A person is diagnosed with Pulmonary edema when fluid accumulates in the air sacs in their lungs. It gets difficult for them to breathe and it gets worse while lying down. People suffering from pulmonary edema have a high chance of a fast heartbeat, feeling suffocated, and may cough up a foamy spittle, every now and then with blood. Whenever this happens, immediately call 911.

Cerebral edema: In this condition, fluids build up in the brain, and it’s serious. The main causes are hitting the head hardly somewhere, or when a blood vessel bursts or gets blocked, or when there is a tumor or an allergic reaction.

Macular edema: In this condition, fluid builds up in the center of the retina which is the light sensitive tissue at the back of the eye. This past is called the macula. This fluid leaks from damage blood vessels in the retina.

Edema symptoms:

When swelling in your legs, ankles, and feet is not caused by an injury then it could possibly be edema. Edema causes puffiness in your hands, face and legs. Due to stretched skin, you feel uncomfortable and uneasy and the movement of the ankles and the wrists is restricting. Symptoms also  depend on the underlying cause and the type or place of edema. the major signs of edema include:

  • swelling or puffiness of the tissue directly under your skin
  • shiny or stretched skin
  • skin that retains a dimple when it is pressed for several seconds
  • aching body parts
  • stiffness in joints
  • gaining or losing weight
  • higher blood pressure and pulserate
  • abdominal pain
  • changes in bowel habits
  • nausea and vomiting
  • visual problems


Mild edema may occur in the following cases:

  • sitting or standing in one position for too long
  • eating too much salty food
  • During PMS (premenstrual syndrome)

Edema can be a sign of an underlying disease such as:

  • thyroid disorders
  • blood clots
  • infections
  • severe allergic reactions
  • congestive heart failure
  • kidney disease
  • damaged leg veins
  • inadequate lymphatic system
  • extreme, long term protein deficiency

Edema can also be a side effect of some medications, including high blood pressure medication, steroid drugs, and some diabetic medication.

Mild edema can be prevented by controlling the amount of salt or by avoiding prolonged sitting and standing. If however your edema is caused by underlying health problems, you will not be able to prevent it. Below are the kinds of edema which require prompt treatment.

Congestive heart failure:

In congestive heart failure, one or both of the heart’s lower chambers fail to pump blood effectively. As a result, blood can accumulate in your legs, ankles and feet, causing edema.


When the liver stops functioning, fluid may accumulate in your abdominal cavity and in your legs.

Kidney disease:

In case of kidney disorder the edema usually occurs in legs and around eyes.

Damaged veins:

The one-way valves in your leg veins are weakened or damaged in case of  chronic venous insufficiency, which allows blood to pool in your leg veins and causes swelling.

Inadequate lymphatic system:

The lymphatic system of our body helps clear excess fluid from tissues. But when the lymph nodes and lymph vessels draining an area do not work correctly, edema can occur.

Severe, long-term protein deficiency:

An extreme lack (deficiency) of protein in your diet over a long period of time can lead to fluid accumulation and thus cause swelling.

In order to avoid any kind of complications seek medical assistance from our expert doctors and specialists. Ignoring the issue can worsen the problem. Our medical professionals are here to identify the cause of edema to suggest the best treatment for you. You can book an appointment with our expert doctors from Lahore, Karachi and Rawalpindi through Oladoc.com. You can also call our helpline at 042-3890-0939 for assistance to find the RIGHT Doctor for your health concerns.

Disclaimer: The contents of this article are intended to raise awareness about common health issues and should not be viewed as sound medical advice for your specific condition. You should always consult with a licensed medical practitioner prior to following any suggestions outlined in this article or adopting any treatment protocol based on the contents of this article.

Dr. Qurrat Ul Ain
Dr. Qurrat Ul Ain - Author Dr. Qurrat Ul Ain is among the Best Internal Medicine Specialist in Islamabad. Dr. Qurrat Ul Ain is a Internal Medicine Specialist practicing in Islamabad. Dr. Qurrat Ul Ain has the following degrees: M.B.B.S., F.C.P.S. (Medicine) and has 9 years of experience.

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