September 01, 2019

Peripheral edema

Reducing problem swelling

Swelling of the legs has numerous causes. If there are no other signs or symptoms, mild leg swelling is relatively common and easily managed by making lifestyle changes. However, leg swelling is sometimes associated with a more serious underlying disease requiring medical attention.

Edema in legs

You can't figure out why your shoes don't fit anymore. Far from being light on your feet, you feel like you're lugging around ankle weights. There's a feeling of excess fluid in your legs, and it doesn't make sense.

Swelling of the legs — also called peripheral edema (uh-DEE-muh) — has numerous causes. If there are no other signs or symptoms, mild leg swelling is relatively common and easily managed by making lifestyle changes such as reducing your intake of salt and staying active. Losing weight also can lead to symptom improvement. However, peripheral edema is sometimes associated with a more serious underlying disease requiring medical attention.

Fluid forces

Normally, the body maintains a careful balance of fluid movement between complex networks of blood vessels, the lymphatic system and all of the tissues surrounding them. However, if this system is thrown off balance, the tiniest blood vessels (capillaries) may leak fluid that builds up in surrounding tissues. The result is edema. Edema most commonly occurs in the lower legs and feet due to gravity. In addition to swelling, other signs and symptoms associated with edema may include:

  • Stretched or shiny skin, especially after the legs have been below the level of the heart for a prolonged time, such as when walking, standing or sitting
  • Skin that stays indented for at least five seconds after being pressed Peripheral edema typically affects both legs. Edema in only one leg may be related to...