Edema, also spelled oedema, and also known as fluid retention, dropsy, hydropsy and swelling, is the build-up of fluid in the body's tissue. Most commonly, the legs or arms are affected. Symptoms may include skin which feels tight, the area may feel heavy, and joint stiffness. Other symptoms depend on the underlying cause.
Causes may include venous insufficiency, heart failure, kidney problems, low protein levels, liver problems, deep vein thrombosis, infections, angioedema, certain medications, and lymphedema. It may also occur in immobile patients (stroke, spinal cord injury, aging), or with temporary immobility such as prolonged sitting or standing, and during menstruation or pregnancy. The condition is more concerning if it starts suddenly, or pain or shortness of breath is present.
Treatment depends on the underlying cause. If the underlying mechanism involves sodium retention, decreased salt intake and a diuretic may be used. Elevating the legs and support stockings may be useful for edema of the legs. Older people are more commonly affected. The word is from the Greek οἴδημα oídēma meaning 'swelling'.