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Definition of Pitting edema

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Pitting edema: Observable swelling of body tissues due to fluid accumulation that may be demonstrated by applying pressure to the swollen area (such as by depressing the skin with a finger). If the pressing causes an indentation that persists for some time after the release of the pressure, the edema is referred to as pitting edema.

Any form of pressure, such as from the elastic in socks, can induce pitting with this type of edema. Edema can be caused by either systemic diseases (diseases affecting multiple organ systems) or by local conditions involving just the affected extremities. In systemic diseases that cause edema, the fluid accumulation is primarily due to the body's retention of too much salt (sodium chloride), causing the body to retain water.

Picture of Pitting Edema

Picture of Pitting Edema

Reviewed on 12/21/2018

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