Edema & Vein Disease: A Dangerous Combination

An Eye On The Ground

It’s the kind of condition that, in some ways, seems to be more an uncomfortable annoyance than
anything particularly dangerous. Your feet, ankles, or lower legs become swollen and feel heavy,
feel tight and warm; the surrounding skin is stretched out, shiny, and discolored. These are the
hallmarks of peripheral edema in the lower limbs (sometimes called “lymphedema”), and while
some cases resolve on their own—like any kind of swelling—others point to underlying
circulation and vein problems, or sometimes even more concerning conditions. [1]

The key, then, is to pay attention to the signs and symptoms of peripheral edema. Even more
crucial is the necessity to seek out medical attention if you suspect you have this condition. Let’s
take a closer look at this disease.

Fluid Dynamics

At its core, edema due to an irregular build-up of fluid in the body’s tissues; this is what causes
the swelling and other symptoms. While it can occur in other parts of the body, as in the lungs
for pulmonary edema cases, it’s most often present in the lower legs, feet, or ankles. [1] Fluid
build up in the body is rather complicated—many different factors can be involved—but it’s
never comfortable. This is certainly what those who’ve had peripheral edema report.

As such, there’s a need to get a sense of the causes peripheral edema. Essentially, the condition
occurs when vessels in the body allow fluid to escape into surrounding tissues, leading to
swelling. [1] This may be the result of a weakening of the vessels’ walls, excessive internal
pressure, or an outside force that draws the fluid out. [2]

Contributing Conditions

But what leads to edema? It turns out there are a great deal of conditions that can contribute.
Here’s a quick breakdown:
Venous Insufficiency: More commonly known as “vein disease,” this is when veins
in the extremities are unable to get blood back to the heart. Circulation problems like
this lead to a range of discomfort but are easily treatable.
Pregnancy: The hormonal and physical changes that accompany pregnancy lead to
an overall increase in the amount of fluid the body carries and retains. In some cases,
this will lead to peripheral edema.
Liver/Kidney Disease: The liver and kidney play an essential role in preserving and
maintaining the body’s necessary fluids. In some cases, then, edema results from
disorders in these organs, as seen in conditions like liver cirrhosis, chronic kidney
disease, and kidney failure. [2]
Heart Disease: Edema can also accompany a failing heart, as this organ becomes
unable to properly maintain circulation. This can lead to both peripheral and
pulmonary edema.
Medication Side-Effects: Edema may also come as a side-effect of certain
medications. These include steroids, calcium channel blockers, non-steroidal anti-
inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and estrogen among others. [2]

Idiopathic Edema: In other cases, peripheral edema arises as a stand-alone
condition, unrelated to other medical factors.

As you can see, peripheral edema is very often a sign of a larger, graver problem. It’s a condition
not to be taken lightly.

Taking on the Condition

Treatment for peripheral edema is very much dependent on what’s actually causing the
condition; in fact, the guiding principle in treatment involves careful and deliberate diagnosis and
on taking on the root cause or causes. Some more mild cases—those unrelated to more serious
issues—can be treated with compression stockings, which help push excess blood from the legs
back into the system. Other times pharmaceutical approaches such as the prescription of diuretics
can work, though with some of these there is the risk of side-effects.
For cases related to vein disease or venous insufficiency, there are quite a few treatment
approaches available as well. Among these, radiofrequency ablation (RFA) is a more recent,
minimally-invasive approach. This involves the use of radio-waves to heat up affected veins to
seal them off; it’s an easily tolerated, outpatient procedure.

Time Is Not On Your Side

But whatever the causes, if you’re experiencing symptoms of edema in your legs or elsewhere,
seek out medical attention as soon as possible. With the help of the right doctor, this
condition—as well as any related one—can be taken on effectively. Given what’s associated
with this disease, waiting it out is simply not an option.
If you’re experiencing circulation problems or vein disease, the Texas-based team at Hamilton
Vein Center can help. The doctors here employ the latest techniques and technologies to ensure
the best possible outcomes, while focusing on patient comfort. Contact their Houston office at
(281) 565-0033; the Austin clinic at (512) 551-1403; or San Antonio at (210) 504-4304 today!

1. Glowatz, E. (2016). What Is Edema? Symptoms Of Dangerous Condition And What To
Do. [online] Medical Daily. Available at: http://www.medicaldaily.com/what-edema-
symptoms-dangerous- condition-and- what-do- 404479 [Accessed 14 Feb. 2018].
2. Ruchi Mathur, FRCP(C). 2018. "What Is Edema, Is It Serious? Symptoms, Pictures,
Types, And Treatment". Emedicinehealth. Accessed February 14 2018.