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What is lower extremity edema?

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Quick Answer

Edema in the lower extremities is a condition in which fluid fills the spaces between cells and induces swelling, inflammation and sometimes pain that ranges from mild to severe. According to Mayo Clinic, the condition can be caused by many different underlying disorders that range from minor to serious.

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Full Answer

Lower extremity edema can be caused by renal failure, heart failure, deep vein thrombosis, hormone imbalances, blockage in the lymphatic system, or the use of certain medications, such as particular pain relievers and hormone replacement therapy, according to Mayo Clinic. Edema can also be caused by inflammation related to illness or local injury. Bursitis, arthritis and infection are all common causes of lower leg edema, as are gout, cellulitis and bone fractures. Whatever the source of the edema, the swelling caused by excess interstitial fluid can be painful, and the damage it causes can create an ideal environment for the development of infections.

Successful treatment of edema requires an accurate diagnosis of the underlying cause of the fluid buildup, which might require an examination of secondary symptoms. Mayo Clinic cautions that secondary symptoms such as dizziness, chest pain, confusion or difficulty breathing may indicate a serious medical condition that should be handled as an emergency.

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