Swelling of Limbs

Fluid accumulation and swelling in the limbs—also known as peripheral edema—can occur for a variety of reasons. Potential causes include eating too much salt, getting sunburned, getting stung by a bee, and walking in warm weather. It also can occur with injury, pregnancy, or the use of certain medications such as calcium channel blockers and estrogens. In some cases, it may indicate a more serious condition such as congestive heart failure, lung disorders, vein problems such as blood clots or deep venous thrombosis, liver failure, kidney failure, thyroid issues, lymph node disorders, tumors or cancer, infection, and low blood protein. Left untreated, the swelling can worsen and cause pain, stiffness, problems with mobility, and decreased blood circulation. Treatments for this issue are typically directed at the underlying cause (i.e., an infection would be treated with antibiotics). Treatment of the swelling itself may involve elevating the affected body part, applying ice to the area, wearing compression devices, limiting sodium intake, and using diuretics (i.e., water pills). Those suffering from this condition also benefit from physical therapy, which may involve water exercises, therapeutic massage, or electrical stimulation. It is important to treat the condition promptly as continued swelling may cause the skin to break down, leading to skin ulcers and infections. In extreme cases, amputation of the affected limb may be necessary.