Help Notes for Nurses No. 2 -- Foot Swelling (Foot Edema)

What is foot edema?

• “Foot edema” refers to abnormal buildup of fluid in the ankles, feet, and legs. It is also called “peripheral edema“. This type of edema may be pitting or non-pitting. It is pitting if applying pressure to the skin produces a temporary depression. Pitting edema is the most common type.

▼ Why does foot edema need nurses' attention?

• It is often, though not always, linked to a variety of serious medical conditions.

▼ To what deeper disease conditions might foot edema point?

• Swollen legs may be a sign of heart failure, kidney failure, or liver failure.

▼ – What are the available treatment strategies?

• Often simple leg elevation helps. Elevate the legs above the level of the heart three times a day and when sleeping.

  • Compression stockings may help if edema is due to reduced venous return of blood to the heart. However, the underlying cause needs to be addressed.

  • Exercise the legs to help with fluid pumping.

• Follow a low-salt diet to help lower fluid buildup.

  • Wear support stockings.


• MedliePlus. National Institutes of Health. Foot, leg, and ankle swelling.

• Colorado Foot Institute. Edema.

MD India. Ankle Edema / Ankle Swelling.

• Chao CY1, Zheng YP, Cheing GL. The association between skin blood flow and edema on epidermal thickness in the diabetic foot. Diabetes Technol Ther. 2012 Jul;14(7):602-9. doi: 10.1089/dia.2011.0301. Epub 2012 Apr 18 ( Abstract retrieved at )

• Welsh JR, Arzouman JM, Holm K. Nurses' assessment and documentation of peripheral edema. Clin Nurse Spec. 1996 Jan;10(1):7-10. (Abstract retrieved at


  • Reference texts are copied verbatim from their sources.

  • If you or your organization would like to have a more detailed report, please contact .

About Foot Swelling (Foot Edema)

A Help Note for Nurses

by Foot Care Academy


© 2014 by Foot Care Academy, all rights reserved

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