Edema: Symptoms & Signs

Medically Reviewed on 1/15/2021

Edema is the medical term for excess fluid that causes observable swelling or fluid collection. Edema can be generalized and occur in many places in the body or can be localized to certain regions. Types of edema include pulmonary edema (fluid in the lungs), cerebral edema in the brain, dependent edema of the lower extremities, and pitting edema, in which pressing on the swollen areas causes an indentation to persist.

Signs and symptoms of edema depend largely upon the location and cause. These can include swelling or puffiness of the tissue directly under the skin, especially in the legs or arms. Other possible signs and symptoms include stretched or shiny-appearing skin.

Causes of edema

A number of different conditions, including congestive heart failure, injury, infections, blockages of a vein, circulatory problems, and many other conditions, can cause edema.

Other edema symptoms and signs

  • Stretched or Shiny-Appearing Skin
  • Swelling of the Tissue Directly Under the Skin, Especially in the Arms or Legs


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Jameson, J. Larry, et al. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 20th Ed. New York: McGraw-Hill Education, 2018.