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Heat Edema

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Other Names

  • Heat Edema


  • This page refers to Heat Edema, a mild and self limited condition seen in athletes exercising in warm environments




  • General
    • Often seen in traveling athletes arriving from cooler climates
    • More common in older adults than conditioned athletes
    • Feet and ankles most frequently affected
    • Resolves spontaneously in days to weeks


  • General[1]
    • Thought to be from vasodilation and increased hydrostatic pressure
    • Body is attempting to shunt warm blood to the periphery
    • This increases heat dissipation in the skin
    • Capillary permeability is also increased
    • Tends to occur in a dependent manner (feet and ankles)

Risk Factors

  • Demographic
    • Older adults
  • Systemic
  • Environmental
    • Lack of acclimatization
  • Other
    • Prolonged periods of standing

Differential Diagnosis

Differential Diagnosis of Lower Extremity Edema

Differential Diagnosis Heat Illness

Clinical Features

  • History
    • Patient will often have a recent travel to a warmer climate
    • Occurs in first few days exposure to increased temperature
    • Primarily patients report soft tissue swelling
    • There are no associated symptoms
  • Physical Exam
    • Edema is typically limited to feet, ankles and hands[2]
    • It is symmetric and pitting
    • Core temperature is normal


  • Clinical evaluation, no work up is required


  • Not applicable


  • General
    • Elevation of legs
    • Compression stockings as needed
    • Ensure athlete is hydrated
    • Adequate salt intake
    • Move to cooler environment if possible
  • Not indicated
    • Diuretics (no proven benefit, may be harmful)

Rehab and Return to Play


  • Not applicable

Return to Play/ Work

  • Not applicable

Complications and Prognosis


  • Self limited condition with excellent prognosis
    • Condition tends to improve in 7-14 days
    • Duration can be up to 6 weeks


  • None

See Also


  1. Howe, Allyson S., and Barry P. Boden. "Heat-related illness in athletes." The American Journal of Sports Medicine 35.8 (2007): 1384-1395.
  2. Waters T. Heat Emergencies In: Tintinalli's Emergency Medicine: A Comprehensive Study Guide. 7th ed. McGraw Hill Medical. 2011: 1339-1344
Created by:
John Kiel on 30 June 2019 22:48:30
Last edited:
31 August 2022 15:31:20