Doctors will generally begin to treat edema by treating the underlying causes of the swelling, according to WebMD. When an area of the swollen extremity is compressed and the indention remains, this is categorized as pitting edema, as defined by MedicineNet. Pitting edema is usually caused by the accumulation of fluid.
A doctor will typically attempt to discover the causes behind the swelling. For example, if the patient is suffering from an allergic reaction, causing swelling, the doctor will treat the allergic reaction with antihistamines or corticosteroids, according to WebMD. Since pitting edema is usually caused by fluid accumulation in the extremities, doctors will attempt to treat it by getting rid of the obstruction that is causing the blockage. Blood clots that lead to swelling can be treated with blood thinners. Once the clot breaks down, the fluid can then drain and the swelling can be relieved. Tumors or other growths that are blocking the normal flow of fluids can be removed through surgery, chemotherapy or radiation, resulting in the obstruction being removed and the fluid being allowed to flow naturally, which can alleviate swelling.
Pitting edema specifically in the lower extremities can sometimes be caused by liver disease or congestive heart failure. The edema related to these health issues can be treated with a water pill, otherwise known as a diuretic, which increases urine output and allows built-up fluid to be released back into the bloodstream.