Lower Extremity Edema or Swelling In Lower Legs

Have you noticed your socks getting tighter and pants feeling snug – this might be quite indicative of the onset of Edema.

Lower extremity Edema is the swelling of lower legs. Edema is basically a medical term for swelling and it is caused by a number of reasons – ranging from simple to more complex reasons.

But Why It Happens?

It occurs when the tissues or blood vessels in your body hold an abnormal amount of fluids thereby disrupting the usual balance of fluids in cells.

Who is more prone to it?

There is no age limit for it but it mostly affects those who are ageing and the pregnant.

What Are The Symptoms?

Again symptoms vary as well according to the pertaining to the condition. The signs may include

  • Stretched or shiny skin of the area affected.
  • Swelling or puffiness
  • Skin retains a dimple or a pit after being pressed for 5 seconds.
  • The skin may feel heavy, stiff and achy making it difficult for you to walk.

What Causes Edema?

It has a wide variety of reasons. Simple reasons might include sitting or standing for longer periods of time and more complex reasons include some serious underlying diseases. If it subsides in one night or so, it is not a thing to worry about but if it persists and especially if it is painful you need to see a doctors as soon as possible.

It can occur in one or both liege causing a great deal of discomfort.

However, some common causes are as follow:

Deep Vein Thrombosis

It is a serious medical condition where a clot of  blood is formed in your vein, it causes excruciating pain, stiffness and swelling in one or both legs. It is a life threatening condition and you need to check with your doctor right away.

Varicose Veins

It is a condition that causes Edema in legs. It happens when the valves in your veins do not pump the blood back to the heart rather it backs up and collects in pools causing a bluish cluster of veins called varicose veins.

Heart Failure

It is one of the most common reasons of Edema in legs. This condition is caused by the inefficiency of heart to pump sufficient blood your body needs leading to fluid buildup especially in your legs.

Kidney Failure

One of the main symptoms of kidney failure is Edema. It occurs because the damaged kidneys do not work properly and are unable to remove the waste products and fluids from blood causing the buildup of excess fluids in your body.


Swelling often results in response to a broken bone, sprain, strain or severe bruising causing excruciating pain.

Inflammation in legs is also caused by teared ligament or tendon leading to the swelling of the tissues in your legs. 


It results in response to a protein deficient diet. It causes fluid accumulation leading to Edema in both the legs.


This is a condition where soreness and swelling occurs as a result of bacterial infection of skin tissue. It can effect any area of the body but mostly it affects the legs.


Edema can also be caused by a number of inflammatory illness such as arthritis, bursitis, gout etc.

Excess Intake of Salt

Salt in colossal amounts can lead to fluid retention your body which can cause Edema.


Edema in pregnancy is a temporary condition and it goes away with the birth of the child.

80% of women experience Edema during pregnancy because the body naturally retains extra fluids during pregnancy that are required by the fetus.

It can occur in different parts of the body but in 50% cases it occurs in legs.

Long periods of inactivity

Travelling for hours on end either an air travel or a road trip is one of the most common causes of Edema and in some cases it may lead to life threatening conditions as well. However, pay extra heed to take breaks when you have to sit or stand for extended periods of time.

Drug reactions

Swellings may also result in reaction to certain drugs because they are involved in increased water retention


As cliché as it may sound “obesity is the mother of all problems” and so is in this case of Edema. No wonder if you are overweight your excess body weight  kickstarts Edema by causing extra pressure on veins. 

Low altitudes

Descending to a lower altitude causes swelling that goes down with time.

Other triggering factors include; 

  • Constricted clothing
  • Sleep apnea
  • Cancer and its treatments
  • Cushing syndrome
  • Graves’ disease

How To Treat It?

There are some preventive measure that you can take to subside the swelling. However, its treatment largely depends on what is causing it. If it is caused by lifestyle or temporary conditions there are several remedies to provide relief. Such as

  • Get Exercise daily
  • Wear compressions
  • Maintain your weight
  • Cut down on salty foods
  • Elevate your legs by placing it on a pillow or something.

When to see a doctor?

If there is no apparent cause for Edema or you feel it is not because of your lifestyle or other temporary causes, it is the high time to see a doctor. As treatments are available to subside the swelling and prevent further complications.