Q:

What causes edema in the legs?

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Quick Answer

Causes of edema in the legs include being overweight, taking steroids and having medical conditions, such as lymphedema, preeclampsia and pericarditis, according to Healthline. Other causes include standing or sitting for long periods and changes during the menstrual cycle. Edema in the legs is usually not painful.

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Full Answer

Lymphedema occurs when there is a blockage in the lymphatic system, notes Healthline. Causes of lymphedema include having a mastectomy, other cancer treatments and genetic conditions, such as Milroy’s disease and Meige’s disease. Edema is the primary symptom of the condition, and patients may experience a dull ache in the affected limbs. Other symptoms of lymphedema include skin infections, red rashes and fever.

Preeclampsia is a condition that occurs during pregnancy, if a woman develops protein in the urine and high blood pressure in the third trimester, explains MedlinePlus. Doctors do not know what causes preeclampsia, but believe that autoimmune disorders, genetic factors and diet can contribute to its development. Symptoms of mild preeclampsia include edema and sudden weight gain, whereas severe preeclampsia can cause headache, vomiting and abdominal pain.

Pericarditis occurs when the sac that covers the heart, called the pericardium, is inflamed, according to Cleveland Clinic. The condition has many causes, but is often due to a viral infection, such as a gastrointestinal virus. Other causes of pericarditis include fungal infections, autoimmune diseases and Dressler’s syndrome. Patients with pericarditis experience sharp chest pain, dry cough, anxiety and difficulty breathing when lying down.

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