Sign of pitting edema thumb/finger pressure test
Everything You Should Know About Pitting Edema
Edema is swelling in the body caused by excess fluid. It often affects the lower body, such as the legs, feet, and ankles, but it can occur anywhere. If you press on a swollen area and an indentation or pit remains, it’s called pitting edema. If there’s enough fluid, and the swelling is from fluid and not something else, then most edema will pit.
Pitting edema is either caused by a localized problem with veins in the affected area, or a systemic problem with your heart, kidneys, or liver function. Edema without pitting is more likely to be caused by issues with your thyroid or lymphatic system.
Either way, if you have edema, it means that excess fluid is trapped in some of your body tissues and it’s not being properly carried away.
If you have pitting edema, it’s important to work with your doctor to determine the cause.
Swelling in your body can cause your skin to feel tight. The swollen limb may also feel heavy due to extra fluid collecting in it. In addition to the swelling, pitting edema may be accompanied by:
shortness of breath
low blood protein, especially if the swelling is in your abdomen
Symptoms occur case by case, depending on what’s specifically causing the edema.
Pitting edema is a general problem caused by a variety of issues such as:
heart valve problems
low protein levels
deep venous thrombosis (DVT) — blood clots, usually in the legs
severe lung disease
congestive heart failure
administration of intravenous fluids
Pitting edema in pregnancy
In many cases, pitting edema in pregnancy is not cause for concern. However, you should still talk to your doctor about your symptoms. They may want to evaluate you to check that the swelling is just a symptom of pregnancy and not caused by abnormal liver function, kidney problems, high blood pressure, or loss of protein in the urine, which may be a sign of preeclampsia.
People of all ages can get pitting edema because the risk factors are mostly related to diet and lifestyle. The main risk factors are:
eating too much salt
a sedentary lifestyle
immobility when an extremity is in a dependent location
emphysema or other severe lung disease
lymph node surgery
Pitting edema is a non-specific complaint. That means you’ll need a comprehensive evaluation to diagnose the cause. Your primary care provider may begin some testing, and they may refer you to a cardiologist or a varicose vein specialist. Diagnostic testing for pitting edema can include:
examination for signs of water retention elsewhere in the body
“You should get a medical evaluation if the edema is a new finding and if it persists and interrupts your daily life,” says Charlotte Bai, MD, a cardiologist and assistant professor at Rush University.
To determine the extent of the pitting edema, your doctor will push on your skin, measure the depth of the indention, and record how long it takes for your skin to rebound back to its original position. They will then grade it on a scale from 1-4.
Grade Depth Rebound time
1 2 millimeter (mm) depression, or barely visible immediate
2 3-4 mm depression, or a slight indentation 15 seconds or less
3 5-6 mm depression 10-30 seconds
4 8 mm depression, or a very deep indentation more than 20 seconds
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