Edema is swelling due to liquid trapped in the body’s tissue. It can occur anywhere in the body, but a person is more likely to notice it in the hands, feet, arms, or legs.

Edema can have many causes, such as heart failure, diabetes, pregnancy, liver disease, and kidney disease.

Some cases of edema do not require treatment. However, when treatment is necessary, a doctor will typically treat the underlying cause. They may also prescribe medications to help reduce fluids in the body.

This article reviews some medications doctors may use to treat edema.

Learn more about edema here.

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Treatment may include either prescription diuretics or anticoagulants. The tables below outline common medications to treat edema.

Loop diuretics

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved loop diuretics for treating edema associated with liver cirrhosis, congestive heart failure, kidney disease, and nephrotic syndrome.

Loop diuretics work by helping the body process and expel more fluid to reduce fluid retention. The table below shows some common loop diuretics.

Brand nameGeneric nameDosesSide effects
Lasixfurosemide• oral tablet: 20, 40, and 80 milligrams (mg)
• injectable solution: 10 mg/milliliter (ml)
• oral solution: 8 and 10 mg/ml
• frequent urination
• blurred vision
• headache
• constipation
• diarrhea
Bumexbumetanide• oral tablet: 0.5, 1, and 2 mg
• intravenous (IV) solution: 0.25 mg/ml
• frequent urination
• dizziness
• upset stomach
• diarrhea
Demadextorsemide• oral tablet: 5, 10, 20, and 100 mg
• injectable solution: 10 mg/ml
• frequent urination
• cough
• constipation
• diarrhea
• hearing loss
• ringing in the ears
• sore throat
• headache
• upset stomach
Edecrinethacrynic acid• oral tablet: 25 mg
• powder form for injections: 50 mg
• frequent urination
• nausea
• vomiting
• loss of appetite
• stomach pain
• difficulty swallowing
• loss of appetite
• thirst
• muscle cramps
• weakness
• headache
• diarrhea

Anticoagulants

Anticoagulants, also known as blood thinners, prevent blood clots from forming and prevent existing clots from getting bigger.

Brand nameGeneric nameDoseSide effects
Hep-Lockheparingiven via IV line• redness, pain, bruising, or sores at injection site
• hair loss
• thrombocytopenia, or low platelet count
Xareltorivaroxaban2.5–20 mg• muscle spasm
• pain in the arms or legs
• vomiting
• stomach pain
• cough
• rash
Eliquisapixabanoral tablet: 2.5 and 5 mg • taking longer to stop bleeding
• bleeding and bruising easily

Treatment for edema can vary widely depending on the underlying condition. People over age 50 may develop edema as a result of poor circulation. Younger people can develop the condition as a result of pregnancy, heart failure, liver failure, kidney failure, or trauma.

When a doctor is treating edema directly, loop diuretics tend to be the first-line medication choice. In some cases, a doctor may also recommend using nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

A person who experiences swelling for unknown reasons should talk with a doctor about it, particularly if it lasts longer than a few days.

Learn more about NSAIDs here.

Over-the-counter (OTC) medications are not available to treat edema.

A person can buy OTC diuretics, but these are primarily for helping a person lose water weight associated with their menstrual cycle or mild health conditions.

If someone has unexplained swelling and puffiness, they should inform a doctor. A doctor may perform a thorough physical exam and order blood tests and ultrasounds to determine the cause.

They may also review a person’s current medications. Certain medications can trigger edema, including:

A doctor may prescribe medication to treat the underlying cause of edema. They may also prescribe either loop diuretic or anticoagulant medication.

The following medications are loop diuretics:

Furosemide (Lasix)

Doctors may prescribe furosemide for various conditions that can cause edema, including congestive heart failure, liver failure, and renal failure. The brand name is Lasix.

It comes in several doses based on the formulation:

  • oral tablet: 20, 40, and 80 mg
  • injectable solution: 10 mg/ml
  • oral solution: 8 and 10 mg/ml

If a person experiences the following side effects from furosemide and the effects are persistent and severe, the person should tell a doctor:

If a person experiences the following side effects, they should seek immediate medical treatment:

Learn more about furosemide here.

Bumetanide (Bumex)

Bumetanide is a diuretic that doctors prescribe to treat edema due to kidney, liver, or heart failure. The brand name is Bumex.

Bumetanide comes in several doses, depending on the formulation. For example, oral tablets are available in doses of 0.5, 1, and 2 mg, and IV solution is available at 0.25 mg/ml.

If a person experiences the following side effects from bumetanide and the effects are persistent and severe, the person should tell a doctor:

  • frequent urination
  • dizziness
  • upset stomach
  • diarrhea

If a person experiences the following side effects, they should seek immediate medical treatment:

  • rapid, excessive weight loss
  • decreased urination
  • dry mouth
  • thirst
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • weakness
  • drowsiness
  • confusion
  • muscle pain or cramps
  • rapid heart rate or pounding heart
  • ringing in the ears
  • loss of hearing
  • unusual bleeding or bruising
  • severe rash with peeling skin
  • difficulty breathing or swallowing
  • hives

Torsemide (Demadex)

Torsemide is a loop diuretic known by the brand name Demadex. A doctor may prescribe it for edema due to heart failure, kidney disease, or liver damage.

Torsemide comes in various doses depending on the formulation. In tablet form, it is available in strengths of 5, 10, 20, and 100 mg. As an injectable solution, it is available in 10 mg/ml.

If a person experiences the following side effects, and the effects are persistent and severe, the person should tell a doctor:

  • frequent urination
  • cough
  • constipation
  • diarrhea
  • hearing loss
  • ringing in the ears
  • sore throat
  • headache
  • upset stomach

If a person experiences the following side effects, they should seek immediate medical treatment:

  • dry mouth
  • thirst
  • nausea
  • vomiting, especially vomiting blood
  • weakness
  • tiredness
  • drowsiness
  • restlessness
  • confusion
  • muscle weakness
  • pain
  • cramps
  • fast heartbeat and other signs of dehydration and electrolyte imbalance
  • rapid, excessive weight loss
  • chest pain
  • difficulty breathing or swallowing
  • blisters or peeling skin
  • hives
  • rash
  • itching
  • ongoing pain that begins in the stomach area but may spread to the back

Ethacrynic acid (Edecrin)

Ethacrynic acid is a loop diuretic that doctors may use to treat edema due to chronic heart failure. The brand name is Edecrin.

Ethacrynic acid is available as 25-mg oral tablets or in a 50-mg powder form for injections.

If a person experiences the following side effects, and the effects are persistent and severe, the person should tell a doctor:

  • frequent urination, which should not last longer than a few weeks
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • loss of appetite
  • stomach pain
  • difficulty swallowing
  • loss of appetite
  • thirst
  • muscle cramps
  • weakness
  • headache
  • diarrhea

If a person experiences the following side effects, they should seek immediate medical treatment:

  • severe, watery diarrhea
  • hearing loss
  • confusion
  • loss of balance
  • ringing or fullness in the ears
  • yellowing of the skin or eyes
  • unusual bleeding or bruising
  • rash
  • hives
  • difficulty breathing

Anticoagulants, sometimes called blood thinners, prevent blood clots from forming and prevent existing clots from getting bigger. The following medications are anticoagulants:

Heparin (Hep-Lock)

A doctor may prescribe heparin to treat edema due to deep vein thrombosis or other clotting issues.

A person can take heparin as an injection under the skin or through an IV drip.

If a person experiences persistent and severe side effects, such as redness, pain, bruising, or sores at the injection site or hair loss, they should tell a doctor:

If a person experiences the following side effects, they should seek immediate medical treatment:

  • unusual bruising or bleeding
  • vomit that is bloody or looks like coffee grounds
  • stool that contains bright red blood or is black and tarry
  • blood in urine
  • excessive tiredness
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • chest pain, pressure, or squeezing
  • discomfort in the arms, shoulder, jaw, neck, or back
  • coughing up blood
  • excessive sweating
  • sudden severe headache
  • lightheadedness or fainting
  • sudden loss of balance or coordination
  • sudden trouble walking
  • sudden numbness or weakness in the face, arm, or leg, particularly on one side of the body
  • sudden confusion or difficulty speaking or understanding speech
  • difficulty seeing
  • discolored purple or black skin
  • itching and burning, particularly on the soles of the feet
  • chills
  • fever
  • hives
  • rash
  • wheezing
  • shortness of breath
  • difficulty breathing or swallowing
  • hoarseness
  • painful erection that lasts for hours

Rivaroxaban (Xarelto)

Rivaroxaban is a type of blood thinner doctors use to help treat different forms of blood clotting and other disorders. A doctor may recommend it for the treatment of edema as well.

Rivaroxaban, sold under the brand name Xarelto, comes in doses of 2.5–20 mg.

If a person experiences persistent and severe side effects, such as muscle spasms and stomach pain, they should tell a doctor:

People should look out for these side effects in children who are taking this medication:

  • pain in the arms or legs
  • vomiting
  • cough
  • rash

If a person experiences the following side effects, they should seek immediate medical treatment:

  • back pain
  • muscle weakness, especially in the legs and feet
  • numbness or tingling, especially in the legs
  • loss of bowel or bladder control
  • inability to move the legs
  • bloody, black, or tarry stools
  • pink or brown urine
  • coughing up or vomiting blood or material that looks like coffee grounds
  • frequent nosebleeds
  • bleeding gums
  • heavy menstrual bleeding
  • weakness
  • tiredness
  • headache
  • dizziness or fainting
  • blurred vision
  • pain in the arm or leg
  • rash
  • itching
  • difficulty breathing or swallowing
  • hives
  • pain or swelling at wound sites

Apixaban (Eliquis)

Medical professionals developed apixaban to help prevent stroke and blood clots in people with nonvalvular atrial fibrillation. It may help treat peripheral edema that results from blood clotting. The brand name is Eliquis.

Apixaban comes in 2.5- and 5-mg tablets, though dosing will vary based on a person’s condition.

The most common side effect is bleeding and bruising more easily. Cuts or other injuries may also take longer to stop bleeding.

If a person experiences the following side effects, they should seek immediate medical treatment:

  • bleeding gums
  • nosebleeds
  • heavy vaginal bleeding
  • red, pink, or brown urine
  • red or black, tarry stools
  • coughing up or vomiting blood or material that looks like coffee grounds
  • swelling or joint pain
  • headache
  • rash
  • chest pain or tightness
  • swelling of the face or tongue
  • trouble breathing
  • wheezing
  • dizziness or a faint feeling

A person may be able to get some financial help to pay for their medications. Several organizations can assist by connecting people with resources or providing financial help.

A person can try the following organizations to look for help:

OrganizationWhat they doPhone number
RxOutreachpatient assistance programs888-796-1234
Medicareprescription drug plans800-633-4227
BlinkHealthprescription drug discounts833-844-9621
Eagle Pharmacy (EyeRx Direct)patient assistance programs844-813-3864
PAN Foundationpatient assistance programs866-316-7263
PharmacyCheckerprescription drug price comparison
NeedyMedspatient assistance programs800-503-6897
RxHopepatient assistance programs
Partnership for Prescription Assistanceprescription assistance service888-477-2669
ConnectiveRxaerie savings card844-807-9706

To prevent or reduce edema, a person can try the following self-care techniques:

  • Elevate the swollen limb when sitting.
  • Wear compression stockings.
  • Limit salt intake.
  • Avoid sitting for long periods without moving around.
  • Stay active with gentle forms of exercise such as walking and swimming.

Edema is swelling due to liquid trapped in the body’s tissues. It is most common in the limbs and extremities.

While many cases of edema improve without treatment, severe cases may require prescription medications, including diuretics and anticoagulants.

Doctors diagnose and treat underlying conditions that cause edema. Conditions associated with edema include heart disease, kidney disease, diabetes, and liver disease. It is also common during pregnancy.

Medications can cause side effects. A person should tell a doctor if they have severe or persistent side effects. They should also be aware of more serious side effects and seek emergency help if these develop.