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Lower limb edema


Lower limb edema is an output of liquid plasma from blood vessels into the interstitial tissue in the legs. It is manifested by an increase in the volume of one or both legs, in whole or in part. Edema of the lower limbs can be hard or soft, red or white, and may preserve for a while the imprint of fingers: this is called pitting edema. Given the multitude of potential causes in the occurrence of edema of the lower limbs, medical consultation must be sought to find a proper diagnosis. Lower limb edema may affect both legs evenly and then be due to renal or hepatic venous heart failure, their causes, as well as thyroid disorders or medications. When only one leg is affected, an obstruction of lymphatic or venous circulation is suspected, or infection or nerve damage.


The patient notes a swelling of one or both lower limbs, either in part or affecting the whole leg. Edema can move quickly or slowly, it can be painful, accompanied by tingling, stiffness and ulceration of the skin. Edema may affect other parts of the body, but also certain organs. The causes of lower limb edema are very diverse, the symptoms can be extremely varied and associated symptoms will lead to a number of assumptions.


The initial consideration of the patient's history and an examination of the progression of the disease are essential. The practitioner determines the bilateral (two legs) or unilateral (one leg) edema of the lower extremities and its severity, if it is painful, soft, indurated, hot or red. Other locations should be examined, as well as signs that evoke multiple diseases that could be potentially involved. Additional tests are required depending on the assumptions made at the end of these steps such as:
  • blood tests to evaluate liver, renal, and cardiac function, infection markers, hormones;
  • a dipstick;
  • an X-ray of the lungs, a heart or abdominal ultrasound;
  • Doppler ultrasound of the lower limbs in the case of unilateral edema and if a thrombosis or phlebitis is suspected.


Treatment can range from simply wearing stockings to surgery following the identification of the cause. Everything depends on the origin of the lower limb edema. Anticoagulants are prescribed in the case of phlebitis. In the case of edema, a diuretic treatment to help eliminate excess water is used. Sometimes a dose of albumin may complete this treatment. The specific treatment of the cause is the most important.


It is possible to prevent lower limb edema in many cases. To do so, the patient should:
  • eat low-salt foods;
  • not smoke;
  • not consume alcohol;
  • pursue physical activity every day if possible, at least three times a week for 30 minutes;
  • Avoid lying down or sitting for too long;
  • sleep with his legs elevated.

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