Approach to Leg Edema of Unclear Etiology

John W. Ely, MD, MSPH; Jerome A. Osheroff, MD; M. Lee Chambliss, MD, MSPH; Mark H. Ebell, MD, MS


J Am Board Fam Med. 2006;19(2):148-160. 

In This Article


There are 2 types of leg edema: venous edema and lymphedema. Venous edema consists of excess low-viscosity, protein-poor interstitial fluid resulting from increased capillary filtration that cannot be accommodated by a normal lymphatic system.[6] Lymphedema consists of excess protein-rich interstitial fluid within the skin and subcutaneous tissue resulting from lymphatic dysfunction.[7] A third type, lipidema, is more accurately considered a form of fat maldistribution rather than true edema.[8]