What Could Cause Pitting Edema? 13 Possible Triggers (List)

Pitting edema is a type of fluid retention that can occur in the body. When pressure is applied to the skin, an indentation or pit forms that lasts for some time after the pressure is released. This condition is caused by a build-up of fluid in the tissues and can lead to swelling and pain. The most common symptom of pitting edema is swelling in the affected area. Other symptoms include skin tightness, heaviness in the affected limb, pain, discomfort, and restlessness.

The diagnosis of pitting edema begins with a medical history and physical examination. They will also perform a physical exam, pressing on the affected area to see how deep the indentation is. Doctors may also order tests to rule out other conditions causing the symptoms.

The treatment for pitting edema will depend on the underlying cause. For example, if it is caused by pregnancy or specific medication, it may resolve on its own once the underlying condition has resolved. On the other hand, if it is caused by chronic venous insufficiency, treatment may involve wearing compression stockings or taking medications to improve blood flow. In severe cases, surgery may be necessary to repair damaged veins or remove excess tissue.


In most cases, pitting edema is a harmless condition that doesn’t require medical treatment. However, some medications can cause pitting edema. For instance, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are medications used to relieve pain and inflammation. While the exact mechanism is not fully understood, it is thought that NSAIDs may contribute to the development of pitting edema by causing kidney damage. This damage can lead to a decreased ability of the kidneys to remove water and sodium from the body, resulting in fluid retention and swelling. 

Additionally, some NSAIDs have been found to increase levels of a hormone known as aldosterone in the body. Aldosterone helps regulate sodium and water metabolism, and increased levels can lead to fluid retention.

Calcium channel blockers (CCBs) are medications used to treat conditions such as high blood pressure, heart arrhythmia, and migraines. When CCBs block the calcium channels in smooth muscle cells, they prevent them from contracting correctly. This relaxation of smooth muscle cells can lead to a decrease in vascular tone and an increase in vessel dilation. The dilation of blood vessels can cause leaking and fluid retention, resulting in pitting edema.