What is leg edema?
Edema is a phenomenon corresponding to the infiltration of serous fluid into the various subcutaneous tissues. It is characterized by a swelling or puffiness of the impaired region. Edema more frequently affects the lower limbs and, in the case of the legs, both rather than only one.
Where does it come from?
In general, edema is caused by a disorder of the blood system. When blood flow is too slow or blood reflux occurs, blood tends to accumulate in the vessels. This accumulation exerts strong pressure on their walls and, in damaging them, let fluids escape that will lodge in the neighboring tissues. These fluids essentially consist of water.
Edema, and the underlying blood circulation disorder, are sometimes due to a disease or the side effects of certain medications. Certain factors may also favor their appearance, such as:
- Venous insufficiency, heart failure or phlebitis;
- A lung, kidney or liver disease;
- Physical trauma or surgery;
- Dysfunction of the lymphatic system;
- A long time in a sitting position, in hot weather or on an airplane;
- Pregnancy (pressure of the uterus on the vena cava or preeclampsia).
How can it be recognized?
The affected area is swollen. The accompanying symptoms are often stiffness and a feeling of heaviness in the leg. The skin on the surface of the swollen region is stretched and shiny. It itches and retains pressure marks, if pressed with a fingertip, for example.
It is important to know the risks of skin infection and ulceration that accompany edema and consult a doctor.
Prevention and reduction of the symptoms are possible by wearing compression stockings, which improve blood circulation and thus avoid the appearance of edema. Walking and reducing the quantity of salt in the diet are also simple and beneficial measures.