What Are the 4 Types of Edemas?

Medically Reviewed on 10/13/2022
4 Types of Edemas
Edema is characterized by swelling of the body’s tissues.

Edema is swelling caused by extra fluid that is accumulated in the body's tissues. Although edema can affect any region of your body, it tends to show up in dependent areas, such as the ankles, sacrum, or even the face (when you have been lying down).

Congestive heart failure, renal illness, or liver cirrhosis are the most common underlying diseases that cause edema. This edema may manifest in the abdominal wall as well.

Taking medicine to eliminate extra tissue fluid and consuming less salt in your diet frequently helps with edema. When an underlying illness is the cause of edema, the illness must be treated separately.

Depending on the cause, edema can be clinically classified as pitting (when pressure is applied to the swollen area, a “pit” or indentation will remain) or nonpitting (no indentation upon applying pressure). The pitting edema is often due to an inflammatory process or organ damage, whereas the nonpitting edema is seen in cases of lymphatic obstruction and thyroid disease.

What are the symptoms of edema?

Edema is characterized by tissue swelling. Although swelling can occur everywhere in the body, it most frequently affects the feet, ankles, and legs.

Swelling signs include:

  • You might notice that a part of your body appears larger or thicker
  • Stretched and glossy skin is visible over the swelling area
  • Walking difficulties if your ankles, feet, or legs swell
  • You might be coughing or having breathing issues
  • Your enlarged body part feels tight or full to you
  • An area of little discomfort or soreness

4 types of edemas

Edema comes in a variety of forms. Each one could be a sign of several medical issues.

  1. Peripheral edema
    • An abnormal buildup of fluid in the ankles, feet, and lower legs is called peripheral edema. It causes swelling in the feet and ankles.
    • Increased capillary or venule leakage from the peripheral circulatory bed causes fluid to flow into the interstitial space, resulting in venous edema. Dysfunction or obstruction of the lymphatic system’s ability to drain from the legs results in lymphatic edema. As a result, the ankles become swollen.
    • Edema is brought on by standing (or sitting) in one place for an extended period. Swelling can be decreased by eating less sodium, engaging in low-intensity activities, or elevating your feet. If an underlying medical issue is the cause of the edema in your feet, you should treat it to reduce the swelling.
  2. Cerebral edema
    • Fluid accumulates around the brain, increasing intracranial pressure. This is called cerebral edema. Inflammation and swelling are both components of the body's normal response to injury.
    • Edema or swelling brought on by trapped fluid can occur anywhere in the body. However, if brain edema develops, it may have serious consequences.
    • The amount of blood that gets to the brain can be limited by cerebral edema. The oxygen that the brain needs to function is carried to it by blood. Brain cells may get damaged or even die if there is not enough oxygen in the brain.
    • Depending on the underlying cause, intracranial pressure can either damage a small portion of the brain or the entire brain.
  3. Pulmonary edema
    • A condition called pulmonary edema is brought on by too much fluid in the lungs. Breathing becomes challenging because of the fluid buildup in the many air sacs in the lungs.
    • Pulmonary edema is frequently brought on by cardiac issues. However, there are other causes for fluid to build up in the lungs. These include pneumonia, exposure to specific poisons, and drugs, injuries to the chest wall, and visiting or exercising at high altitudes.
    • Acute pulmonary edema, which appears quickly, is a medical emergency that requires prompt attention. Sometimes, pulmonary edema might result in fatalities. Prompt medical attention could be beneficial.
    • Depending on the cause, pulmonary edema is typically treated with medication and more oxygen.
  4. Macular edema
    • Macular edema is a swelling of the retina, a sensitive region at the back of the eye. It is typically brought on by fluid buildup from blood vessel leaks that are damaged or irregular.
    • Macular edema can develop issues with the retina, such as wet macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, and retinal vein occlusion or retinal dystrophies (uncommon conditions).
    • Additionally, inflammation after eye surgery, trauma, or inflammatory retinal disorder can result in macular edema.


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Medically Reviewed on 10/13/2022
Image Source: iStock image

Edema. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/edema/symptoms-causes/syc-20366493

Macular oedema. https://www.macularsociety.org/macular-disease/macular-conditions/macular-oedema/

Pulmonary edema. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/pulmonary-edema/symptoms-causes/syc-20377009

Cerebral Oedema (Brain Swelling). https://brainfoundation.org.au/images/stories/applicant_essays/2012_essays/Cerebral_Oedema_-_Turner.pdf

What Is Edema? https://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/heart-failure/edema-overview