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Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jul 4, 2022.

What is edema?

Edema is swelling throughout your body. Edema is usually a sign that you are retaining fluid. The swelling may be caused by heart failure or kidney, thyroid, or liver disease. It may also be caused by medicines such as antidepressants, blood pressure medicines, or hormones. Sudden swelling around the lips or face may be a sign of a severe allergic reaction. Swelling of an arm or leg may be caused by blockage of your veins.

What other signs and symptoms may occur with edema?

  • Discomfort or tenderness in the swollen areas
  • Tight and shiny skin over the swollen areas
  • Weight gain

How is edema diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and any other symptoms you have. He may also ask about any medical conditions you have. Your healthcare provider will examine your skin over the swollen areas. He may gently push on the swollen area for a short time to see if this leaves a dimple. He may also order tests to find the cause of your edema.

How is edema treated and managed?

Treatment for edema depends on the cause. Depending on your medical condition, you may be given medicine to help get rid of extra body fluid. Your healthcare provider may suggest that you do any of the following to help manage edema:

  • Elevate your arms or legs as directed. Raise them above the level of your heart as often as you can. This will help decrease swelling and pain. Prop them on pillows or blankets to keep them elevated comfortably.

    Elevate Leg
  • Wear pressure stockings as directed. The stockings are tight and put pressure on your legs. This helps to keep fluid from collecting in your legs or ankles.
    Pressure Stockings
  • Limit your salt intake. Salt causes your body to hold water. Ask about any other changes to your diet.

  • Stay active. Do not stand or sit for long periods of time. Ask your healthcare provider about the best exercise plan for you.
    Black Family Walking for Exercise
  • Keep your skin moist using lotion, cream, or ointment. Ask your healthcare provider what to use and how often to use it.

Treatment options

The following list of medications are in some way related to or used in the treatment of this condition.

View more treatment options

When should I seek immediate care?

  • You have shortness of breath at rest, especially when you lie down.
  • You cough up pink, foamy sputum.
  • You have chest pain.
  • Your heartbeat is fast or not even.

When should I call my doctor?

  • The swollen area feels cold and is pale or blue in color.
  • The swollen area feels warm, painful, and is red in color.
  • You have increased swelling or swelling in other parts of your body.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Ā© Copyright IBM Corporation 2022 Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotesĀ® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or IBM Watson Health

Learn more about Edema

Treatment options

Care guides

Symptoms and treatments

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.