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Arm/Leg Injuries, Edema, and Swelling After a Car Accident

Atlanta Car Accident Attorney

After a traumatic experience like a car accident, excess fluid can leak and become trapped inside your body. You will notice unusual swelling in places like your hands, feet, face, and legs.

The swelling is known as edema. Symptoms of edema include:

  • Swelling or puffiness
  • Stretchy or shiny skin
  • Increased abdominal size
  • Skin that remains dented or dimpled for several seconds after being poked or pressed

See your doctor if you experience additional symptoms such as shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, or chest pain. This could be a sign of pulmonary edema, which requires immediate attention.

What Can Cause Edema?

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The fluid swelling inside the body comes from tiny blood vessels called capillaries. The damaged capillaries leak fluid into the surrounding tissues, pooling together and causing swelling.

Edema can be the result of congestive heart failure, kidney disease, cirrhosis of the liver, pregnancy, medication, sunburn, or other underlying diseases. A severe wreck or bodily trauma can also trigger edema.

Critical Illness - Injuries, burns, infections, or other serious illnesses can cause fluid to leak into the surrounding tissues, leading to edema all over the body.

Congestive Heart Failure - One or both of the heart’s lower chambers lose the ability to pump blood. This causes a backup, forcing blood to pool in the legs, ankles, feet, and stomach. It can also cause fluid to flood the lungs (pulmonary edema), leading to shortness of breath.

Liver Disease - Damage to the liver (cirrhosis) may cause fluid to build up in the abdomen and legs.

Kidney Damage - Injury to the kidneys’ tiny blood vessels that filter fluid can cause nephrotic syndrome. Edema occurs because of declining levels of protein (albumin) in the blood.

Vein Damage - If the leg veins are weakened or damaged, blood may start to pool in the limb causing them to swell. If the swelling happens suddenly and is accompanied by pain in the calf muscle, it may be due to a blood clot (DVT - deep vein thrombosis). Seek medical help ASAP.

Lymphatic Damage - The lymph nodes and lymph vessels help clear excess fluid from the body’s tissues. Damage to the lymphatic system can cause edema to appear.

Protein Deficiency - An extreme lack of protein in the diet over a long time period can lead to edema.

Pregnancy - Mild edema is common but serious medical issues like DVT and preeclampsia can also cause edema.

Types of Edema

Depending on where edema occurs, physicians may call it by a specific name. Blood vessels are everywhere in the body, meaning they can leak fluid almost anywhere depending on the injury or disease.

  • Cerebral Edema - A serious condition in which fluid builds up in the brain. Brain swelling can be caused by getting hit in the head, a burst or blocked blood vessel, tumor, or allergic reaction.
  • Lymphedema - Swelling in the arms and legs caused by damage to the lymph nodes. Oftentimes the damage is caused by cancer treatments or cancer itself.
  • Macular Edema - Damaged blood vessels in the retina leak fluid into the center, known as the macula.
  • Pedal Edema - Fluid gathers in the lower legs and feet, making it harder to move around.
  • Peripheral Edema - A problem with the circulatory system, lymph nodes, or kidneys can cause fluid buildup in the legs, ankles, feet, or arms.
  • Pulmonary Edema - When fluid collects in the lung’s air sacs, it makes it difficult to breathe, especially when lying down. The heart may beat faster, you feel suffocated, and you may cough up spittle or blood. Call 911 immediately.

Leg Swelling

Swelling in the leg can happen anywhere: the thighs, calves, ankles, or feet. It can result from fluid retention or due to inflammation from diseased or injured tissue or joint.

Car accidents can cause post-traumatic edema in the lower extremities sometimes. This is often due to enlarged lymph nodes. In certain cases, permanent edema occurs, possibly due to severe damage to veins and other tissues.

Seek immediate care if your leg swells for no apparent reason, you were recently injured by a fall or car accident, or the swelling affects only one leg and is painful and/or features cold, pale skin.


Left untreated, edema can be a painful condition. Ignoring edema can lead to:

  • Painful swelling
  • Stiffness
  • Stretched, itchy skin
  • Difficulty walking
  • Infection
  • Scarring
  • Skin ulcers
  • Poor blood circulation
  • Decreased elasticity in joints, muscles, arteries, and veins

Diagnosing and Treating Edema

A doctor will perform a physical exam and ask questions about your medical history. This is often enough to determine the cause of edema. If necessary, additional tests such as X-rays, MRIs, ultrasounds, and blood or urine samples may be ordered.

Mild edema can be treated at home. Home remedies include movement and exercise, elevating the affected area above the heart, massages, compression stockings or sleeves, keeping the area clean and moisturized, and reducing salt intake.

Severe edema may require drugs like diuretics, also known as water pills (these force the excess fluid out via urine).

Legal Help for Edema After a Car Accident

Gary Martin Hays & Associates know how to help injured victims with injuries caused by wrecks. Our personal injury lawyers understand the pain that comes with soft tissue injuries and we work to get our clients the best medical care possible.

If you’re suffering from a leg injury, face swelling, abdominal swelling, or other edema-related issues due to a crash, work injury, or assault, talk to our personal injury team today. Edema is a serious issue if left untreated or ignored.

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