June 11, 2009

Causes & Treatment for Pitting Edema

Posted in Category : Common Ailments

There is a constant balancing act that takes place within your body. When it comes to the levels of salt maintained in the body, the kidneys along with a number of hormonal and physical factors regulate the amount of salt retained and removed from the body. Your diet will determine the amount of salt you take in and the kidneys then control the amount of salt excreted via the urine. In case you suffer from medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes or any type of kidney problems, there is a decrease in the blood flow to the kidneys. In response to this decrease, the kidneys start retaining more salt to maintain the fluid balance in the body. This results in water retention and edema. There are two main types of edema that can affect a person – pitting and non-pitting. When you press down on a swollen area and the indentation is left behind on the skin, it is known as pitting edema. Non-pitting edema does not cause any such indentations.

What are the causes of pitting edema?

There are a number of different reasons why you develop pitting edema. These include:

  • Vein Rupture: Any rupture or trauma to the veins can increase the pressure of the blood in the capillaries. The kidneys respond to this change in pressure by retaining sodium and water that results in edema.
  • Kidney Damage: Kidney damage often translates into lower protein levels in the blood and the accumulation of fluid that causes pitting edema.
  • Heart Disease : When the heart loses its ability to function normally, blood may back up and pool in the extremities and result in pitting edema.
  • Problems with the Lymphatic System: The responsibility of the lymphatic system is to remove extra water collected in the body. If the lymphatic system is not working optimally due to an infection or certain medications, water retention and edema can develop.
  • Cirrhosis of the Liver: This leads to a hormonal imbalance and affects the amount of blood carried to different parts of the body and can cause swelling and bloating in the abdomen and legs.
  • Certain Foods: There are a number of foods that can cause or aggravate water retention such as foods high in salt like cheese, olives, oysters, and chickpeas. Processed foods, canned foods and ready to eat meals are all high in sodium as well.
  • Other causes of pitting edema include pregnancy, menopause, menstruation, dehydration, air travel, overeating, poor circulation, insect bites, chronic lung diseases, thyroid problems, and certain medications such as anabolic steroids, calcium channel blockers, diabetes medications and NSAIDs.

Is there a cure for pitting edema?

Apart from changes to your lifestyle and diet, there are also various natural cures you can try to treat pitting edema such as:

  • Eat at least two bananas a day to reduce water retention. The potassium in bananas works as a diuretic and helps eliminate excess fluid.
  • Cranberry juice is another excellent diuretic. Drink one to two glasses of cranberry juice for the best results.
  • Sip on parsley tea to reduce swelling and water retention. Simply steep a handful of parsley leaves in hot water and drink twice or thrice a day.
  • Foods such as beets, grapes, pineapple, watermelon, ginger, garlic, and onions are natural diuretics and should be included in your daily diet.
  • Keep your arms and legs above your heart level when you can rest to improve circulation and reduce water retention.
  • When you sleep, prop up your legs with a pillow through the night.
  • Follow a low salt diet and avoid drinking too many fluids.
  • If you are obese, reduce weight with a regular exercise routine.
  • You may find some relief by wearing support garments or compression stocking to prevent swelling of the legs and feet.
  • Avoid smoking and alcohol.


  1. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003103.htm