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Edema is defined as a palpable swelling caused by an increase in interstitial fluid volume. Leg edema is a common problem with a wide range of possible causes and is the result of an imbalance in the filtration system between the capillary and interstitial spaces. Major causes of edema include venous obstruction, increased capillary permeability and increased plasma volume secondary to sodium and water retention. In both hospital and general practice, the patient with a swollen leg presents a common dilemma in diagnosis and treatment. The cause may be trivial or life-threatening and it is often difficult to determine the clinical pathway. The diagnosis can be narrowed by categorizing the edema according to its duration, distribution (unilateral or bilateral) and accompanying symptoms. This work provides clinically oriented recommendations for the management of leg edema in adults.
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