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What causes pitting edema?

Edema is caused by either systemic diseases, that is, diseases that affect the various organ systems of the body, or by local conditions involving just the affected extremities. The most common systemic diseases associated with edema involve the heart, liver, and kidneys. In these diseases, edema occurs primarily because of the body's retention of too much salt (sodium chloride). The excess salt causes the body to retain water, which then leaks into the interstitial tissue spaces, where it appears as edema. Medications also can cause pitting edema.

The most common local conditions that cause edema are varicose veins and thrombophlebitis (inflammation of the veins) of the deep veins of the legs. These conditions can cause inadequate pumping of the blood by the veins (venous insufficiency). The resulting increased back-pressure in the veins forces fluid stay in the extremities (especially the ankles and feet). The excess fluid then leaks into the interstitial tissue spaces, causing edema.

Return to Edema

See what others are saying

Comment from: BJM, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: October 09

I am having chemotherapy for breast cancer, and have edema in my wrists and hands. The oncologist says it's an effect from the chemotherapy.

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Comment from: deadwood52, 65-74 Female (Patient) Published: April 10

I believe my edema is caused by taking Lyrica for my neuropathy. I am taking 150 mg dose twice daily and believe it is too high a dose. I started out with 75 mg 3 times daily. From my knees to my ankles the swelling and pain will get worse if I sit or stand too long. I have not seen my neurologist about this yet, but it seems to have started when I went to the higher dose.

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Comment from: Joe, 35-44 Female (Patient) Published: September 09

I had ventral hernia repair almost 5 weeks ago. I don't know what caused it, I am not overweight and in pretty good shape. I was on pain medicines oxycodone for 3 days then ibuprofen for about 5 days. Gradually after about a week the pain began to subside. End of second week I went for exercise walks. I still experience slight pain in the surgery area around navel and mesh area. Mesh area near belt line is a little puffy and swollen. Doctor gave me limitations of 20 lb lifting after the 2 weeks. I have been off of work the whole time. I will be going back to the doctor today for a nod to go back to work after 5 weeks. A little worried about work requirements like lifting, pushing, pulling, etc. We'll see today.

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