Edema is a medical term that means swelling, particularly in the body’s tissues. Peripheral edema is swelling caused by the retention of fluid in legs, ankles, feet and even sometimes in the arms and hands. Peripheral edema happens when small blood vessels leak fluid into nearby tissues. The extra fluid build-up is what makes the tissue swell. It could be a sign of problems with the circulatory system, lymph nodes, kidneys, liver or heart muscles. Also, certain medications, infections and pregnancy can cause edema.
Why does Peripheral Edema Occur?
If you’ve ever sat on a long flight or stood for long periods of time at work, you may notice a mild and temporary water retention problem that will go away on its own—especially by raising the affected limb higher than your heart. Many women may experience peripheral edema during menstruation or pregnancy, both usually harmless. Other types of edema can be more serious due to:
- Symptoms of a disease that needs treatment
- An adverse effect of medication or an allergic reaction
- A chronic condition, for instance lymphedema after cancer treatment or leg edema following deep vein thrombosis diagnosis
We briefly discussed edema swelling caused by water retention, which is manageable. On the more serious side, a variety of diseases can cause edema. Venous or vascular insufficiency can cause peripheral edema in the ankles and feet; this occurs when the veins are having trouble transporting enough blood back to the heart. Thus, fluid gathers in the legs and is forced out of the blood vessels into the surrounding tissue (ankles and feet). The presence of varicose veins can also cause edema. Other conditions that can cause peripheral edema are congestive heart failure, kidney and liver diseases, low protein levels in the blood, and severe lung conditions such as emphysema.
What are the Symptoms of Peripheral Edema?
Early signs of peripheral edema include:
- Fullness or heaviness in the legs or arms
- Increased abdominal size
- Swelling or puffiness of the tissue directly under the skin
- Skin that leaves a dent after being pressed for several seconds
- Tightness or warmth of the skin near the edema
- Difficulty in moving affected joint areas
- Discomfort wearing certain clothing or jewelry
Consult with Lam Vascular & Associates
It can be very concerning to have unusual swelling in your legs and/or arms. But when discomfort progresses to pain, it is time to see your primary care physician or—better yet—the specialists at LAM Vascular & Associates. Especially if you are dealing with deep vein thrombosis, lymphedema or varicose veins, among other complex vascular conditions. Treatments focus on reducing swelling and alleviating pain. Options include a prescribed exercise program, medications, wrapping, massage, compression and minimally-invasive surgical procedures if necessary.
If you have any concerns, schedule an initial appointment with Lam Vascular & Associates, conveniently located in Dallas and Rockwall, Texas. We are here to help you return to the walk of life you deserve.
The information contained in this article is not intended to be used as a substitute for medical advice. Patient results will vary based on risk factors, age, disease and medical history and are not guaranteed in any way.