Leg Edema: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment


Some of us have heard of a condition called leg edema. Edema is defined as being a buildup of fluid in an area of the body that often results in the symptoms of inflammation as well as a definite amount of discomfort. If you have been experiencing a noticeable amount of swelling in one or more legs then you might want to consider the following information to help you get an idea of whether or not you might be suffering from leg edema.


What is a Leg Edema?


So you know, in theory, what edema is but what actually goes on inside the body when edema takes place? Certain situations can cause too much fluid to build up in one of the two main parts of the body that are used for storing liquids, which are blood vessels and interstitium. When these areas leak or burst, the excessive amounts of fluid bleed into the surrounding area where it normally wouldn’t be, resulting in obvious swelling and, in many cases, “pitting” or dents in the skin that result when the skin is forcefully pressed upon.


What Causes Edema?


Edema can be caused by a number of different things. Pregnant women often experience edema because the body typically retains fluid with this condition. Obviously this only acceptable to a certain extent and severe swelling could be a sign of preeclampsia. Women may experience recurring edema around the time that they menstruate. Although this can be an uncomfortable condition it is rarely necessary to seek treatment unless the swelling fails to go away. Cirrhosis is another condition that can cause leg edema as it can result in the obstruction of the flow of blood through blood vessels, thus resulting in fluid retention in the legs and even the abdomen. Individuals who are overweight or who are older might have a higher chance of experiencing edema because these conditions are commonly associated with circulatory problems as well as fluid retention. Recent trauma to the affected leg, surgery, or a recent infection can also cause edema. Certain medications have been associated with fluid retention and swelling, such as blood pressure medication, tablets for diabetes management, ibuprofen, naproxen, and supplemental estrogen hormone.


It’s important to have yourself checked out if you are experiencing swelling in one or both of your legs because there are a few serious conditions that can cause leg swelling, such as a blood clot, infection, or a growth such as a tumor or cyst. One could also suffer from edema if they have an undiagnosed condition such as diabetes, arthritis, chronic venous disease, or a thyroid problem.


Symptoms of Edema


The symptoms of leg edema can be a little difficult to recognize, especially when such a general main symptom like swelling can be associated with many other conditions. Some of the primary symptoms include puffiness of the skin, and the skin may also have a glossy or shiny tint. It is very common for the skin to have an indention when it has been pressed firmly with a fingertip. The dimple usually rises after about 10 seconds. It’s also possible to experience unexplained weight gain or loss, increased pulse rate, high blood pressure (that one normally wouldn’t have), and aching in the muscles or joints of the affected leg.

When to See a Doctor


Most of us really don’t like the idea of going to the doctor, but there are times when it could prevent a lot of future complications and pain. With edema, it’s probably a good idea to see a doctor if the symptoms don’t go away after a few days or if it’s your first time experiencing this condition. Bear in mind that there are circumstances in which temporary edema crops up, such as if you’ve been sat down or stood up for a long time, spent a lot of time out in hot weather (especially if you were crouched down, such as while gardening), or during menstruation. These circumstances usually don’t require a trip to the doctor because the edema typically clears up on its own. If it doesn’t or if you start to experience additional or worsened symptoms then it’s probably a good idea to schedule a visit with your doctor.


What Treatment is Available for Leg Edema?


There are a few different ways that leg edema can be treated. For some, the treatment process revolves around treating the underlying cause, such as switching medications or treating an infection. Other treatments are quite simple in nature. It might be helpful to start taking diuretic tablets, which help the kidneys to pump out more fluids so that there is less fluid available to be retained in the leg(s). Compression garments, such as socks or stockings, are also very helpful in reducing swelling in the legs. Many doctors also make it a point to tell patients with edema to be mindful of the positions they maintain throughout the day. Sitting or standing for long periods of time can take a toll, especially on an existing case of edema. It is recommended to prop one’s legs up (above heart level) for half an hour intervals about four times every day or whenever needed. This practice helps to work against the effect of gravity, which tends to pull the blood downward to the feet and makes it more difficult for the blood vessels in the legs to pump the blood back up to the rest of the body.