Edema may be generalized or local. It can appear suddenly, but usually develops subtly – the patient may first gain weight, or wake up with puffy eyes. Many patients wait until symptoms are well advanced. Excess fluid is trapped in the body’s tissues. Swelling caused by edema commonly occurs in the hands, arms, ankles, legs and feet. It is usually linked to the venous or lymphatic systems. Edema was formerly known as hydropsy. The swelling can occur in one particular part of the body or may be more general, depending on the condition.


The accumulation of fluid under the skin causes swelling, often in the lower legs and ankles (known as peripheral edema).

oedema can also cause:

  1. skin discolouration
  2. areas of skin that temporarily hold the imprint of our finger when pressed (known as pitting oedema)
  3. aching, tender limbs
  4. stiff joints
  5. weight gain

Causes of oedema
It’s normal to have some swelling in the legs at the end of the day, particularly if we have been sitting or standing for long periods.
Edema is often a symptom of an underlying health condition. It can occur as a result of the following conditions or treatments:

  1. pregnancy
  2. kidney disease
  3. heart failure
  4. chronic lung disease
  5. thyroid disease
  6. liver disease
  7. Malnutrition
  8. use of corticosteroids
  9. high, blood pressure etc.

Immobility and standing for long periods are the two most common causes of edema in the legs.
Other possible causes include:

  1. a blood clot
  2. severe varicose veins

Treating oedema
Oedema is often temporary and clears up by itself. For example, if we have been standing up for too long on a hot day, our ankles may swell up until we get the chance to put our feet up and rest.
If edema doesn’t go away by itself, than we have to contact the doctor ,who will try and find out if there’s an underlying cause which needs to be treated. This could involve taking medication or following some advice, such as:

  1. losing weight (if overweight)
  2. taking regular exercise, such as walking, swimming or cycling
  3. raising our legs three to four times a day to improve blood circulation
  4. avoiding standing for long periods of time

If an underlying condition is causing the fluid imbalance, it should clear up after the condition has been diagnosed and treated.

By – Dr. Rashmi Duggal Dhingra
Uttaranchal (P.G.) College Of Bio-Medical Sciences & Hospital