What is Pitting Edema?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 24 June 2019
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Pitting edema is a medical condition in which fluid builds up in the extremities to such a degree that when the fluid-filled extremity is gently pushed with a finger, a depression will remain in the flesh for some time before the flesh slowly bounces back into place. This condition is a symptom of a number of medical conditions, some of which are very serious, and it requires medical treatment. If patients notice the signs of this type of edema, they should make an appointment with a doctor.

This condition is a form of edema, an umbrella for a family of conditions characterized by a buildup of fluid in the interstitial spaces of the extremities. The feet and legs are especially prone to edema, because the excess fluid has to work against gravity to get out of the extremities.

Edema is usually associated with salt retention, which causes the body to retain water to compensate for the excess salt, resulting in swelling in the interstitial spaces of the body because the water is held in the body, rather than being expressed in the urine. People can develop mild edema in hot weather, in working conditions where they need to stand all day, and in pregnancy, and edema can also be a consequence of a medical condition.


Liver, heart, and kidney disease can all cause edema, and if the condition progresses, pitting edema may emerge. This type of edema is also linked with pretibial myxedema, a symptom associated with hyperthyroidism, and with lymphedema. Lymphedema is common in cancer patients, and it can also be seen in the case of some parasitic and bacterial infections.

The emergence of pit edema is a problem for a number of reasons. It tends to make the patient feel uncomfortable, and it usually makes garments and shoes hard to wear. In addition, the buildup of fluid presents a risk of infection for the patient. The edema is also a sign that the patient has a serious underlying medical condition which needs to be addressed.

In order to treat this condition, it is necessary to determine the cause and to treat the patient for that. The patient may also be given diuretics to encourage the body to express water, and sometimes pressure garments are used to control the swelling and to encourage the fluid to travel up the body so that it can be expressed. However, these measures cannot be used alone to treat pitting edema, because they will not resolve the cause.


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Post 6

I contracted semi severe flu that started a-fib and then edema. I taking 40 mg furosimide daily very little effect swelling recedes in legs at night while asleep sometimes but fluid is forced to upper legs. My knees are bad so I cannot go for walks and it is too cold to start sweating. I am taking a product called blood boost which is supposed to increase blood flow. My BP has gone from 154/98 to 112/74, which is now consistent, so maybe it hasn't reached my legs yet.

Post 5

Could there ever be a case in which pitting edema occurs in the head?

I too have pitting edema on my scalp (top of my head) I also get it in my legs Left and right) arms and face. If I have a tight sleeve or bracelet on, the marks will remain on my forearms/wrists for an hour or more. Diuretics help, and I don't use salt. I have had a kidney and heart work up, and all were negative. When I wear my mask to snorkel, it leaves a ring on my face!

I wish I knew what caused it. After all my tests were negative, the doctor just said "take a diuretic"! I don't take it every day, usually once a week, but can lose five to seven pounds when I do!

Post 4

I found that eating real raw vegetables and fruit cured my edema. They are a natural source of potassium and magnesium which are needed in your cells as they keep out sodium which attracts water. So make sure you are eating a proper balanced diet before you think about pills and supplements.

Post 3

Could there ever be a case in which pitting edema occurs in the head?

Post 2

In addition to being placed on diuretics for water retention, people with pitting edemas may be forced to go on a diet limited in salt.

Post 1

Varicose veins are often the cause of a pitting edema. This condition causes a problem with the pumping of the blood in the veins. Heightened back-pressure in the veins causes fluid to stay inside the extremities. The fluid eventually leaks into the tissues throughout the extremity which causes the edema. This often occurs in the ankles and feet.

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