We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

What is Peripheral Edema?

By Leo Zimmermann
Updated: Mar 03, 2024

Peripheral edema refers to swelling in the body's extremities. Most commonly it affects the legs and feet. The direct cause of edema is the accumulation of fluid within the tissue of the affected body parts. There are many underlying causes that can produce this outcome.

One of the most common causes of peripheral edema is old age. Aging is also associated with a number of more specific causes. These include varicose veins and other problems with circulation in the legs. Rheumatoid arthritis can cause edema via inflammation. Sitting or standing without moving for a long period of time can be enough to cause this condition.

Other potential causes include burns, bites or stings, clots, infections, and lymphatic obstructions. Swelling can result from any modification to the pressure of fluid or tissue in the legs, including inflammation, blood vessel pressure, lymphatic pressure, and other changes. All of these factors combine with the effect of gravity, which explains why the legs and feet are the most common targets of edema.

The hormones associated with pregnancy and menstruation, also found in various medications, can induce the condition in some women. There are other drugs that can cause the condition as well, in particular blood pressure medication and steroids. Some kinds of antidepressants can cause peripheral edema. These include monoamine oxidase inhibitors and tricyclics, but not selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors.

Peripheral edema is a common side effect of other more serious medical conditions. Emphysema reduces the ability of the body to acquire oxygen through the lungs, and swelling of the legs and feet can result. Problems with the liver, heart, kidney, and bladder can have similar effects. Altitude sickness, which results from extreme changes in pressure, can cause peripheral and other forms of edema. If a person develops this condition that has no obvious cause and does not go away after moving around, he or she should probably seek medical attention.

There are a few ways to reduce the swelling caused by transient, or temporary, peripheral edema. Raising the legs to drain some of the fluid is a good idea unless the edema resulted from a poisonous bite. Also, try to consume less salt and move the legs. Because this condition has so many different causes, effective treatment will depend largely on diagnosing its particular source. Persistent, or recurring, edema can independently cause neuropathic damage.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
The Health Board, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

The Health Board, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.