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Z Gerontol Geriatr. 2015 Jan;48(1):49-51. doi: 10.1007/s00391-013-0557-x.

Bilateral leg edema in an older woman.

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AUVA Trauma Center Meidling, Kundratstr. 37, 1120, Vienna, Austria,


Bilateral leg edema is a frequent symptom in older people and an important concern in geriatric medicine. Further evaluation is frequently not performed and simple therapy with diuretics is prescribed. Particularly in older patients, long-term use of diuretics can lead to severe electrolyte imbalances, volume depletion, and falls. In this case report we want to focus the physicians' attention on the necessity to determine the cause and show a correspondingly effective treatment for bilateral leg edema in older people. A thorough approach is required to recognize diseases and to avoid adverse drug events as geriatric patients often show an atypical presentation or minor symptoms. The cause of swollen legs is often multifactorial; therefore, the patient's individual history and an appropriate physical examination are important. Depending on the clinical symptoms, evaluation including basic laboratory tests, urinalysis, chest radiography, and echocardiogram may be indicated. The most probable cause of bilateral edema in older patients is chronic venous insufficiency. Heart failure is also a common cause. Other systemic causes such as renal disease or liver disease are much rarer. Antihypertensive and anti-inflammatory drugs can frequently cause leg edema, but the incidence of drug-induced leg swelling is unknown. With the help of this special case we tried to develop an approach to the diagnosis of symmetric leg edema in older patients, a problem frequently neglected in geriatric medicine.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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