Peripheral edema (also known as leg swelling)

We Primary Care - Best Primary Care Knowledge Site


Peripheral edema (also known as leg swelling) may strike anybody at any age, but it is more common in elderly people and pregnant women. One or both legs may be affected. If the symptoms are severe and appear suddenly, they should be checked by a doctor right once.

It is quite probable that the problem stems from too much time spent sitting on a plane or standing for too long. Furthermore, it might be a sign of a more severe underlying ailment.

When anything in the body disturbs the normal fluid balance within the cells, it leads to edema. As a consequence, the organs and tissues store an abnormally large quantity of fluid in the interstitial space. As the fluid empties, gravity pushes it down to legs and feet causing swelling in legs and feet.

Peripheral edema may manifest itself in a number of ways, depending on the underlying reason. In general, you may have the following symptoms in your legs or any other afflicted area: swollen and puffy look and heavy or stiff feeling. Additional symptoms include pitting i.e. when you push your finger on the skin for around five seconds, it makes a dent in the skin. Swelling in the legs or feet makes it difficult to walk. As a result of the fluid rise, you will gain weight.

Depending on the cause, peripheral edema might be caused by a major illness or by something simpler. In both circumstances, medications are available to reduce swelling and prevent more issues from occurring.


Peripheral edema may be caused by a variety of factors. If your edema goes away overnight, it usually means the underlying problem is not as serious. The presence of persistent peripheral edema throughout the day and night indicates a more significant underlying etiology.

It is a kind of leg swelling caused by fluid accumulation in the leg muscles and tissues. Issues with the venous circulatory system, lymphatic system, or kidneys are among the many possible causes.

Leg swelling is not always indicative of a heart or circulation problem. Fluid retention may result from a variety of factors, including being overweight, inactive, sitting or standing for long periods of time, or wearing restricting stockings or pants.

Some of the causative factors associated with peripheral edema are:

Injury: A fracture, sprain, strain, or substantial bruising in the leg, ankle, foot, or hand may be very painful and debilitating. A strain, as well as an infection, a ruptured tendon or ligament, or a strained muscle, may cause inflammation in the leg.

Hormonal changes: During the monthly period, the body is likely to retain fluid, which may cause swelling in the legs and feet. Hormonal fluctuations that occur on a monthly basis cause swelling in the legs in women.

Excessive salt consumption: Edema is caused by the body retaining fluids as a result of consuming excessive amounts of salty foods.

Medicines: Peripheral edema is a side effect of several medicines, usually owing to increased water retention. The edema is affected by the dose and duration of treatment with these medications. Following are the drugs that may cause peripheral edema: hypertension medicines, antidepressants, diabetes drugs, and corticosteroids.

Allergies: They may cause swelling in the arms and legs in certain cases, but it occurs more often in other parts of the body.

Excessive weight: It may cause edema in the legs due to the pressure on the veins.

Diseases that are associated with edema or swelling calves are:

Venous insufficiency: It is a condition in which the veins in the legs are damaged or weak, making it impossible for them to efficiently pump blood to the heart. Blood pools in the lower legs as a result. It might affect one or both of your legs at the same time.

Heart failure: Edema is caused by blood pooling in the lower legs as a consequence of a problem with the right side of the heart. If the left half of the heart is not working correctly, fluid may build up in the lungs.

Blood clot: A blood clot in the leg may cause abrupt edema in that leg and it becomes painful.

Some other conditions that also lead to peripheral edema include:

·         Pulmonary hypertension

·         Cirrhosis

·         Renal failure

·         Lymphedema

·         Inflammation

·         Cellulitis

When to see a doctor

Get immediate medical help if your legs swell for no apparent reason, particularly if you are also experiencing inexplicable leg discomfort, trouble breathing, chest pain, or any other symptoms that might indicate a blood clot in the lungs or a heart issue.

If there is no obvious explanation for the edema and you are experiencing additional symptoms, it is recommended to consult with a doctor.