Edema – Factors, Symptoms, Treatment

Edema is a disease in which swelling of the legs as well as the feet occurs in the patient. Edema arises if there is an imbalance between the forces that regulate the passage of fluid from one compartment to another. The factors driving the liquid flow are:

  • The increased pressure inside the vessel: for example, thrombosis and phlebitis of the veins, varicose veins and heart failure.
  • The decrease in the amount of proteins tends to retain osmotic water into the intravascular compartment. The decrease in protein levels is due to poor nutrition, a disruption in the formation of proteins in the liver such as cirrhosis, or loss of protein by the kidney.
  • The alteration in the permeability of the vessel wall when a person is injured by an inflammation, burns, allergies or lack of oxygen favors the passage of fluid.
  • The obstruction of the lymphatic vessels, which are responsible for collecting the remaining liquid passing into the interstitial space by infections, inflammations, etc.


  • The fluid buildup is most evident in regions of the body with abundant loose tissue such as the ankles, eyelids, and the sacral area.
  • The skin on these swollen areas may be straight or shiny.
  • If you press with your finger, it leaves a mark or dimple that slowly disappears.

The edema may have a local distribution (ankle or leg), regional (entire limb) or any other body part in general. When it is widespread and affects the entire body, is called anasarca (extreme edema). This edema is usually detectable from an accumulation of more than three liters of fluid. It affects a specific area, for example, pleural or abdominal cavity, and is called ascites or hydrothorax.


In all cases of edema formation, treatment should be directed to the disease that causes it. General measures of treatment are:

  • Bed rest with for a certain period of time.
  • Taking low-salt diet to avoid the accumulation of water.
  • Using diuretic to remove the retained liquid.
  • Using elastic stockings to help mobilize the edema and increased venous return.