Pedal Edema: Definition, Diagnosis, Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

Have you ever experienced swelling of the legs or ankles? If so, chances are you’re experiencing pedal edema. There are various factors as well as diseases that cause this to occur. Learn more about Pedal Edema: Definition, Diagnosis, Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment.


What is pedal Edema?

Pedal Edema definition

Pedal edema occurs when fluid gathers in the upper and lower legs. The condition most often affects older or pregnant people. Therefore, people who experience pedal edema are usually difficult to move because the legs are often numb.


What are the symptoms that arise for people with pedal edema?

Pedal edema can cause adverse health damage. This may not be a serious condition but it could be the underlying cause. Pedal edema generally occurs if you are pregnant or elderly. Pedal edema causes the following symptoms:

  • Swelling of the legs, limbs, and ankles.
  • Constant discomfort
  • Interference in the style of walking
  • Reduced mobility (difficulty walking)
  • Increased risk of falls
  • Sensation disorders in the legs
  • Skin ulcers

One of the main reasons pedals edema are inactive is because they don’t do a lot of activities or sit for long periods. When you are on a long journey, long flight, or inactive for other reasons, you may experience pain and swelling in the upper part of the leg.

This pain and swelling will usually be reduced with basic heating exercises. If the pain, swelling, and discomfort continue, seek medical help immediately as this may imply a blood clot in the blood vessels (deep vein thrombosis).


What causes Pedal edema?

Pedal edema can be distinguished into two types:

  • Bilateral pedal edema (occurs on both legs)
  • Unilateral pedal edema (occurs on one leg, right or left)
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Acute bilateral pedal edema indwells swelling of the legs due to treatment or bilateral DVT (Deep vein thrombosis). Bilateral chronic pedal edema in the elderly is caused by venous insufficiency.

In addition, it can also arise due to heart failure, kidney or liver disease. Some women also experience short-term pedal edema in pregnancy, which will usually heal after childbirth.

Unilateral pedal edema causes swelling of only one leg or ankle. It can also be caused by DVT or cellulitis, ruptured popliteal cysts, gastrocnemius musculostheneneus rupture, and other traumas.

Bilateral and unilateral pedals edema are classified as pitting and non-pitting pedal edema.

  • Pedal Edema pitting causes dimples or “holes” if pressed by the finger for a few seconds. You can learn more about Pitting Edema: What is it Symptoms and Causes ( How to Treatment, Scale, Grading.
  • Non-pitting pedal edema causes swelling but does not cause dimples or holes as in external forces.

Some of the health disorders most likely to cause bilateral pedal edema are as follows:

  • Obesity
  • Pulmonary Hypertension
  • Venous Insufficiency
  • Gastrointestinal Disorders
  • Liver Disease
  • Anemia
  • Deep Vein Thrombosis
  • Certain types of cancer
  • Myxoedema
  • Heart failure
  • Lymphedema
  • Hypothyroidism


Some of the causes of unilateral pedal edema are as follows:

  • Venous insufficiency
  • Deep vein thrombosis
  • Pelvic tumor
  • Sympathetic reflex dystrophy
  • Lymphoedema
  • Baker’s ruptured cyst


How is Edema Pedal Diagnosis Done?

Diagnosis of pedal edema can be done with the help of a physical examination by a general practitioner and see a history of the disease if any. As a first step, the doctor will do the following:

  • Rule out systemic diseases and complete metabolic panels
  • Counting complete blood
  • Analyzing urine to be done by a cardiologist
  • If albumin levels below 2 gm/dl indicate edema caused by malnutrition, liver or kidney disease
  • If pulmonary hypertension along with sleep apnea is suspected, then an echocardiogram (ECG) should be performed


How to treat Edema Pedal?

Treatment of pedal edema depends on the cause that causes edema. In certain cases, edema is curative and can be managed by stopping the drugs that cause pedal edema.

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Pedal edema treatment is done to reduce swelling by lowering capillary leakage and facilitating lymphatic drainage. A general practitioner is likely to prescribe a non-pharmacological treatment consisting of exercise, lymphatic massage, and external multilevel compression for pedal edema.

Some of the swollen foot remedies to reduce edema of the lower limbs are as follows:

Exercise or perform gestures

The affected area will help extra fluid pumped into the heart. But you should avoid strenuous exercise. Performing basic movements such as ankle rotation or slow walking is enough.


Keeping the affected area in a high position can drain some extra fluid to the heart due to gravity. Place your aching feet on one or two pillows and rest until the swelling subsides.

Compression clothing

Compression sleeves or stockings may be advised to control swelling so that it does not occur again. It is important to note that compression clothing is not safe to wear while the limbs are still swollen. This clothing is intended to stop the condition from reoccurring.

Healthy diet

Consuming too much salt increases the sodium content in the body which can cause many diseases including high blood pressure, osteoporosis, kidney failure, and stomach cancer. Some of these diseases can also be one of the causes of pedal edema. For the treatment of pedal edema, reduce salt intake and processed foods, do not forget to include more fruits as well as fresh vegetables in your diet.

Pedal Edema: Definition, Diagnosis, Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

When to see a doctor?

It is highly recommended to see a doctor if the pedal edema causes the following symptoms:

  • Swelling above the legs occurs immediately after any injury
  • The following swollen ankles are characterized by the onset of red patches
  • Swollen feet and ankles are also accompanied by a swollen abdomen (especially if there is a history of liver disease)
  • Pain in the ankle especially if only on one leg
  • Swelling increases, especially if there is a history of kidney or heart disease)
  • Fever
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It is important to visit your GP immediately if you see and feel any of the symptoms of pedal edema to get a diagnosis as well as proper treatment.


Do I need to see a doctor if my legs are swollen?

If you stand or sit for long periods (long journeys, long flights, etc.), swelling of the ankles and feet is common. Try to move slowly, and keep the swollen legs high to pump some extra fluid into the heart. If you experience sudden swelling for no apparent reason, consult a doctor immediately.


How to reduce swelling of the legs due to kidney disorders?

Pedal edema or swelling of the legs will not decrease until you treat it. Consult a doctor immediately for kidney disease. In the meantime, you can try raising your feet, reducing your salt intake, or soaking your feet in cold water.


Are anemia and swollen legs connected?

The answer is yes. Anemia patients may show signs of pedal edema. Low hemoglobin concentration in the blood can stimulate the retention of salt and water in your body.


Is there a link between pedal edema and heart disease?

In congestive heart failure, a couple of chambers of the heart can fail to pump blood efficiently. This leads to blood retention in some parts of the body that can cause edema. Please consult a cardiologist to treat your heart disease which will further reduce pedal edema.


How to prevent the occurrence of pedal edema?

Here are some ways you can do to alleviate the symptoms of pedal edema that appear:

  • Eating healthy foods and limiting salt intake
  • Avoiding cigarettes and alcoholic beverages
  • Do light exercise regularly
  • Provides a cold compress on swollen parts of the body
  • Using special stockings to prevent swelling from getting worse

The important thing to do to prevent and overcome edema is to make changes in lifestyle and diet to become healthier, especially by avoiding foods that contain excess salt.

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