What Is Edema? - Definition, Causes & Treatment

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: What Is HDL Cholesterol? - Definition & Healthy Levels

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:00 A Look at Edema
  • 0:56 Causes
  • 1:42 Treatment
  • 2:24 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Speed Speed Audio mode

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jayne Yenko

Jayne has taught health/nutrition and education at the college level and has a master's degree in education.

Have you ever had a tooth pulled and your jaw swelled afterward? Or sprained your ankle and it swelled up? That's edema, a common response by the body to injury or inflammation. Discover more about edema.

A Look at Edema

Edema refers to swelling anywhere in your body, either in your entire body or just parts of it. It's most often noticed in the hands, feet, and ankles. Edema is a normal reaction to inflammation or injury. For example, a sprained ankle, an insect bite, or a surgical site may swell. This can be beneficial, because the increased fluid brings more white blood cells, which fight infection, to the area.

There are two types of edema, pitting and non-pitting. Pitting edema is when pressure is applied to the swollen area, and the indentation remains after the pressure is removed. It is the most common type of edema. Non-pitting edema is when the indentation does not remain when pressure is removed. Most of us have experienced pitting edema in very mild forms, just from wearing socks. When we remove our socks, we might notice an indentation around our legs where the socks were.


Edema is caused by the capillaries, tiny blood vessels in your body, leaking fluid, which builds up in the surrounding tissues. Mild cases of edema can be caused by sitting in one position too long, perhaps in an airplane; eating too much salt; and pregnancy.

Serious causes of edema include:

  • Congestive heart failure
  • Cirrhosis of the liver
  • Kidney disease
  • Kidney damage
  • Chronic venous insufficiency - when the one-way valves (to keep the blood flowing back to the heart) in your legs stop working properly

Some medications can cause edema, such as:

  • NSAIDs, like ibuprofen or naproxen
  • Calcium channel blockers, used in heart disease
  • Corticosteroids, like prednisone
  • Thiazolidinediones - medication used to treat diabetes

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account