What are the Causes of Leg Edema?

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  • Written By: Autumn Rivers
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 01 November 2018
  • Copyright Protected:
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Edema is the buildup of fluid in a certain area of the body, and one of the most common areas affected is the legs. One of the main causes of leg edema is the ingestion of some types of medication. Another common cause is failure of certain organs, including the heart, liver, and kidneys, as swelling is one of the many symptoms of organ failure. Leg edema is sometimes even caused by seemingly normal activities, such as sitting or standing for a while, so it cannot always be avoided by even the healthiest of people.

Many prescription medications can result in leg edema, making this one of the common side effects of several drugs. Medication prescribed for high blood pressure, depression, and diabetes are some of the most common causes of leg edema. Even nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen, which does not need a prescription, can cause swelling. Most patients are warned about this issue before taking the medication, and some people are able to ignore this side effect so that they can continue to take the prescribed drug. If, on the other hand, the swelling is too uncomfortable to ignore, talking to a doctor may result in a prescription drug that does not cause edema, when possible.


Organ failure can also cause leg edema, especially when there is a medical condition with the heart, liver, or kidneys. Heart problems that are sometimes considered causes of leg edema include cardiomyopathy, pericarditis, and general heart failure. Liver and kidney issues that may also result in edema include cirrhosis and acute or chronic kidney failure, though an issue with the legs veins returning the blood to the heart, called chronic venous insufficiency, is another common cause of edema. Blood clots in the leg, or thrombophlebitis, are also among the most known causes of leg edema.

People without any of these medical issues can also develop swelling in the legs, as two of the most common causes of leg edema include sitting and standing for long periods of time. Traveling long distances in a car, taking a lengthy flight by airplane, and requiring bed rest are all examples of events that may result in leg swelling unless the legs are regularly stretched. Additionally, edema is known to occur in normal, healthy pregnancies, though it may also be a sign of preeclampsia, a serious condition that results in protein in the urine and high blood pressure during pregnancy.



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