Peripheral oedema is the presence of excess interstitial fluid in the tissue of the extremities, which causes palpable swelling. Oedema develops when microvascular filtration, and therefore interstitial fluid production, exceeds lymph drainage for a sustained period. This could be because the microvascular filtration rate is high, lymph flow is low, or both.
The body has a number of homeostatic mechanisms that serve to maintain interstitial fluid balance, and these must be overwhelmed before fluid build-up becomes evident as peripheral oedema. Clues generated by the history, physical examination, and targeted evaluation help to identify the factors affecting lymphatic drainage and microvascular filtration. In many patients, multiple factors contribute to the development of peripheral oedema.
Peripheral oedema is called lymphoedema when it is predominantly caused by inadequate lymphatic drainage.
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- Constrictive pericarditis
- Restrictive cardiomyopathy
- Tricuspid regurgitation
- Sleep apnoea
- Non-thrombotic venous outflow obstruction/May-Thurner syndrome
- Hepatic venous outflow obstruction (includes Budd-Chiari syndrome, portal vein thrombosis, and hepatic veno-occlusive disease)
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- Protein-losing enteropathy
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- Secondary lymphoedema
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Laura D. Rosenthal, DNP, ACNP, FAANP
Associate Professor, College of Nursing
University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus
LDR declares that she has no competing interests.
Ethan Cumbler, MD
Professor of Medicine
Division of Hospital Medicine
Department of Internal Medicine
University of Colorado
EC declares that he has no competing interests.
S. Wamique Yusuf, MD
Department of Cardiology
University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center
SWY declares that he has no competing interests.
Piyush Raj, MD
Basic Physician Trainee RACP
PR declares that he has no competing interests.
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