Swelling (medical)

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]


In medical parlance, swelling is the enlargement of organs caused by accumulation of excess fluid in tissues, called edema.

It can occur throughout the body (generalized), or a specific part or organ can be affected (localized). Swelling is considered one of the five characteristics of inflammation; along with pain, heat, redness, and loss of function.

In a general sense, the suffix "-megaly" is used to indicate a growth, as in hepatomegaly, acromegaly, and splenomegaly.

A body part may swell in response to injury, infection, or disease, as well as because of an underlying lump. Swelling — especially swelling of the ankle can also occur if the body is not circulating fluid well.

Generalized swelling, or massive edema (also called anasarca), is a common sign in severely ill people. Although slight edema may be difficult to detect to the untrained eye, especially in an overweight person, massive edema is very obvious.


The following medical conditions are some of the possible causes of swelling symptoms:

General possible causes of localized swelling:

Some possible causes of skin swelling include:

Causes of generalized swelling:

Some possible causes of a swollen limb include:


While it's possible for mild swelling to go away on its own, several things can be done to relieve the symptoms or haste the process. The HI-RICE first aid method of rest and protecting the affected area has long been taught as a short term solution.

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