Venous edema

If the volume of your legs is constantly increased, and pressure on the affected part leaves an indent, you have edema. The cause could be venous or lymphatic. A doctor’s consultation will provide the correct diagnosis. Compression therapy is the basic therapy for edema.

Venous edema

Your legs are swollen, especially in the evening and summer, and these swellings disappear when you raise your legs? These might be the first signs of venous disease. If the leg remains swollen even after elevating your legs, it could be edema,

Whatever is the case, you should visit a health care professional for proper diagnosis and to check for underlying causes.


What is venous edema?

Edema is defined as a perceptible increase in the volume of fluid in the skin and subcutaneous tissue. Applying pressure on edema will leave an indentation that remains on the skin after the pressure is released.

Venous edema usually first occurs in the ankle region; it may also extend to the leg and foot. 


What causes venous edema?

There are many causes of edema, such as standing or sitting for long periods of time, physical inactivity, chronic venous disease, lymphedema, heredity, pregnancy, surgery, and trauma.

Edemas of venous origin develop when venous valves don’t close properly and blood stagnates in the veins, thereby preventing the blood vessels from properly functioning.

For an affected person, there is often no visible difference between venous edema and lymphedema. In any case, if you experience swelling, you should visit your doctor for correct diagnosis and treatment. 


What can I do about venous edema?

Your healthcare professional will examine your symptoms as well as the presence of varicose veins, trophic skin disorders or skin ulcers that may be associated with a venous disease.

By means of ultrasound, the doctor can visualize the blood flow and check if the development of your edema is associated with a venous disorder and if the superficial veins or the system of deep veins in your legs are affected.

Early diagnosis of edema is essential to prevent disease progression and to avoid more serious complications.

Medical compression therapy: a non-invasive treatment

To help with venous edema, medical compression therapy is used as basic non-invasive treatment. 

Your healthcare professional can prescribe medical compression stockings. The elastic material of the medical compression stocking provides an active pressure to the leg and gently squeezes the vein walls together.

The strongest pressure is applied at the ankle and decreases going upwards along the leg, thereby easing blood flow back towards the heart, reducing venous pressure, and improving overall circulation.

In some cases, a massage-like technique called Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD) can help as well. 


Other treatment options for venous edema

Venous edema originates from an underlying venous disorder, which can be treated with non-invasive compression therapy, but also with more invasive techniques. Different treatment options include: 


Injection of a liquid, foam, or glue under ultrasound guidance that causes the veins to shrink and collapse.

Surgical removal of varicose veins. Superficial veins are removed through small incisions (micro-incision phlebectomy); deep veins are removed via vein stripping.


Edema can be a sign of a venous disorder

Basic medical knowledge on venous disorders

  • With the term Chronic Venous Disorder (CVD) we describe a long-standing condition involving impaired venous return.
  • If vein valves don’t close properly, a reflux results: the blood leaks downwards and stagnates in the vein, thereby leading to venous hypertension. This condition is known as chronic venous insufficiency (CVI) which may cause edema, skin change, and, in some cases, ulcerations.
  • If left untreated, chronic venous insufficiency can result in the formation of serious disorders, including phlebitis and pulmonary embolism. To distinguish the different manifestations of CVD, the CEAP classification system is used.
  • Acute venous disorders usually occur without pre-existing conditions, but they can also be triggered by chronic venous disorders. In any case, medical treatment is immediately required. Acute venous disorders include superficial thrombophlebitis, deep vein thrombosis (DVT), pulmonary embolism, post-thrombotic syndrome, and variceal bleeding.

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Further reading

What is compression therapy?

What is compression therapy?

Medical compression therapy applies a type of elastic device on limbs or other body parts to exert a controlled pressure on them. Thereby, the device squeezes the vein walls together and improves the circulatory rate. Medical compression also helps with reduction of edema and recreates conditions beneficial for the healing of chronic inflammatory disorders.


Lymphedema is a condition of localized fluid retention and tissue swelling caused by a compromised lymphatic system. Treatment includes medical compression, among others.


Lipedema is a chronic, progressive disorder that is characterized by abnormal distribution of adipose tissue. This results in disproportion between extremities and trunk. The disproportion is caused by a localized, symmetrical increase in subcutaneous adipose tissue, typically in the lower extremities, less common also in the upper extremities. Compression wear is one very important element in the treatment of lipedema.
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