"Edema" is the medical term for swelling, parts of the body swell from injury or inflammation. It can affect a small area or the whole body. Edema may be caused by drugs, pregnancy, infections, and many other medical issues. Edema occurs when small blood vessels leak fluid into nearby tissues. That extra fluid builds up, causing the tissue to swell. It can cause problems in almost every part of the body.
What is Pedal Edema?
Pedal edema causes an abnormal accumulation of fluid in the ankles, feet, and lower legs causing swelling of the feet and ankles. Two mechanisms can cause edema of the feet. Venous edema occurs due to increased capillary leakage that causes fluid to leak into the interstitial space from the venous system. Lymphatic edema is caused by dysfunction or obstruction of the outflow of lymph from the legs. This results in the accumulation of fluid in the ankles. These fluid accumulation mechanisms can occur together or independently. Venous edema can also cause lymphatic edema. Most of the time, mild cases of foot edema are usually caused by a buildup of fluid called edema. Pedal edema causes swelling of the feet and legs that is often due to standing (or sitting) in the same position for a long time. Reducing your salt intake in food or doing basic exercises or keeping your feet elevated can reduce swelling. If the edema of the feet is due to an underlying medical condition, it is important to treat that condition to alleviate the edema.
Swelling in the feet, knees, and ankles can be caused by several factors. In most cases, the majority of the time, swelling is caused by such lifestyle causes, such as:
Excessive body mass can decrease blood circulation, causing fluid accumulation in the feet, legs, and ankles.
Standing or sitting for long periods:
When the muscles are inactive, they cannot pump body fluids towards the heart. Swelling in the legs can be caused by the accumulation of water and blood.
Other possible causes of foot, leg, and ankle swelling include certain medical conditions or body changes, such as:
- Blood clot in the leg: A blood clot is a group of blood that is in a solid-state. When a blood clot forms in a vein in the leg, it can affect blood flow and cause swelling and discomfort.
- Injury or infection: An injury or infection affecting the foot, leg, or ankle causes increased blood flow to the area. This presents as swelling.
- Venous insufficiency: This condition occurs when the veins cannot pump blood properly, causing blood to pool in the legs.
- Preeclampsia: This condition causes high blood pressure during pregnancy. Increased blood pressure can cause poor circulation and swell in the face, hands, and legs.
- Cirrhosis: This refers to severe scarring of the liver, which is often caused by alcohol abuse or an infection (hepatitis B or C). High blood pressure and poor circulation in the feet, legs, and ankles are typical symptoms of this disorder.
Your doctor may order one or more of the following tests to help diagnose the cause of the swelling:
- Blood tests, including blood counts, kidney and liver function studies, and electrolytes to assess various organs
- X-rays to view bones and other tissues
- Ultrasound to examine organs, blood vessels, and tissues
- Electrocardiogram to assess heart function
- If your swelling is related to a lifestyle habit or minor injury, your doctor will probably recommend home treatments. If your swelling is the result of an underlying health condition, your doctor will first try to treat that specific condition.
- The swelling can be reduced with prescription medications, such as diuretics. However, these medications can cause side effects and are usually only used if home remedies don't work.
Treatment of pedal edema depends a lot on the cause of the edema. In certain cases, edema is curative and can be treated by stopping drugs that cause swelling of the feet. Treatment of pedal edema is done to reduce swelling by reducing capillary leakage and facilitating lymphatic drainage.
When to visit a Doctor?
Most times, the swelling reduces and then disappears in 2 to 3 weeks after the body has successfully fought off the infection. If the problem persists for more than a couple of weeks, it could warrant a visit to the doctor.
Other reasons to visit the doctor include:
- A lymph node that to the touch feels stiff or rubbery
- A node that does not move freely
- A node with a diameter of an inch or more
- Swollen lymph nodes that accompany night sweats, abdominal pain, unexplained weight loss, or high fever
Swollen legs can be a sign of many conditions, ranging from mild to severe. If you experience any of the following symptoms along with swollen legs, seek immediate help.
- Shortness of breath or trouble breathing
- Coughing up blood
- Chest pain
- Pressure or tightness in the chest