ZocdocAnswersIs the swelling in my legs caused by edema?

Question

Is the swelling in my legs caused by edema?

Both of my legs have become swollen. I think it started like two months ago but not completely sure...Could it be edema? I heard that it makes your body swell and that it is dangerous. Can I doctor test me for edema?

Answer

Before I begin, I need to clarify an important point. The symptom you are describing, swollen legs, goes by the medical name edema. Edema is a generic term that is used to describe soft tissue swelling in just about any part of the body from the face to the toes. Edema in and of itself is not necessarily dangerous; the real question is what is causing it. Just as a cough is a symptom that may mean you have a viral respiratory illness or something much more dangerous such as lung cancer, edema may be caused by a simple and not very dangerous problem or by something more concerning. Your doctor can help determine the cause by discussing your history of swelling, performing a clinical exam and perhaps doing some blood work and other tests as indicated depending on your other medical problems and symptoms. Some of the most common causes include thyroid problems, pregnancy, problems with veins, some medications. Other more serious causes of leg swelling are blood clots, heart problems, high blood pressure in the lungs among others. You should contact your primary care physician who can evaluate your symptoms more thoroughly and help direct you to the appropriate therapy. Good luck!

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