Edema is swelling caused by excess fluid trapped in your body's tissues. Although edema can affect any part of your body, it's most commonly noticed in the hands, arms, feet, ankles and legs.

Edema can be the result of medication, pregnancy or an underlying disease — often heart failure, kidney disease or cirrhosis of the liver.

Taking medication to remove excess fluid and reducing the amount of salt in your food often relieves edema. When edema is a sign of an underlying disease, the disease itself requires separate treatment.

Symptoms Causes Risk factors Complications

Signs and symptoms of edema include:

  • Swelling or puffiness of the tissue directly under your skin
  • Stretched or shiny skin
  • Skin that retains a dimple after being pressed for several seconds
  • Increased abdominal size

When to see a doctor

Make an appointment to see your doctor if you have swelling, stretched or shiny skin, or skin that retains a dimple after being pressed. Seek immediate medical attention if you experience:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Chest pain

These symptoms can be a sign of pulmonary edema, which requires prompt treatment.

If you've been sitting for a prolonged period, such as on a long flight, and you develop swelling and pain in a leg that won't go away, call your doctor. Persistent leg pain and swelling can be a sign of a blood clot deep in your veins (deep vein thrombosis, or DVT).

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