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You are here : 3-RX.com > Medical Encyclopedia > Medical Symptoms > Swelling of the Extremities
      Category : Health Centers > Hands and Feet

Swelling of the Extremities

Alternate Names : Peripheral Edema, Swelling of the Arms OR Legs, Swelling of the Limbs

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors | Symptoms & Signs | Diagnosis & Tests | Prevention & Expectations | Treatment & Monitoring

Extremities is a term used to describe the arms and legs. Swelling may occur in the limbs for many reasons.

What is going on in the body?

Most people notice when their limbs swell. The swelling can not only be seen, but also often causes discomfort or even pain. Swelling may occur in only one limb or all of them.

What are the causes and risks of the condition?

Swelling in the limbs can be due to any of several problems. Some of these conditions affect only one limb, or only the legs, while others may affect all the limbs at once. Examples of causes include:

  • congestive heart failure
  • lung disorders, such as pulmonary edema
  • problems in the veins of the leg, such as varicose veins or blood clots, also called deep venous thrombosis
  • liver failure, such as cirrhosis
  • kidney failure, such as chronic renal failure or acute renal failure
  • kidney disorders, such as nephrotic syndrome
  • hypothyroidism
  • tumors or cancer
  • infections, such as cellulitis
  • pregnancy
  • certain medications, such as nifedipine, estrogen or corticosteroids
  • low protein in the blood, called hypoalbuminemia, which may be due to malnutrition, kidney disease such as glomerulonephritis, or liver disease, such as hepatitis
  • trauma to the lymph drainage system of a limb, such as swelling in the arm after breast cancer surgery
  • Other causes are also possible. Sometimes, the cause cannot be found.


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    Swelling of the Extremities: Symptoms & Signs

    Author: Adam Brochert, MD
    Reviewer: Eileen McLaughlin, RN, BSN
    Date Reviewed: 06/06/01

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