Peripheral Edema

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Peripheral Edema is a swelling, usually of the legs, due to excessive fluid in the tissues. Standing for an extended period of time or sitting with your legs left hanging for prolonged period of time, especially in hot weather, causes excess fluid accumulation in your legs and ankles.

Other conditions may cause fluid retention:

  • A number of women experience edema prior to their menstrual cycle.
  • Water retention during pregnancy occurs, as the uterus puts pressure on the major blood vessel which returns blood to the heart from the legs. Some hormones can also encourage the body to hold onto excess fluids giving rise to the condition. A more serious condition called preeclampsia, may also give rise to fluid retention during pregnancy.
  • Certain medical drugs are known to cause fluid retention.

Peripheral Edema caused by illness:

  • Diseases of the heart, liver, and kidneys are mainly caused by salt retention, which holds the excess fluid in the body
  • In certain liver and kidney diseases, low levels of albumin in the blood can contribute to fluid retention
  • Low protein levels in the blood, caused by malnutrition
  • Idiopathic Edema occurs primarily in women
  • Varicose veins or thrombophlebitis (a blood clot in an inflamed vein) of the deep veins causes edema that is most often localized to the legs
  • A local injury, such as seen in the ankle sprain above
  • Obstruction of lymphatic flow may happen as a result of a tumor or surgery, such as a mastectomy for breast cancer, causing non-pitting edema
  • Myxedema is a particular form of peripheral edema that is a result of long-standing thyroid disease
  • Tumors, which block structures of the lymphatic system, like the lymph nodes, etc.
  • Joints affected by certain types of arthritis tend to swell, due to fluid retention.

Therapy for edema consists of treating the underlying conditions, restricting salt intake, and often using diuretics and compression stockings, as well as elevation of the affected extremity when possible .

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