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Papers of the Week

Papers: 11 Dec 2021 - 17 Dec 2021


Human Studies


PLoS One



Peripheral edema: A common and persistent health problem for older Americans.


Besharat S, Grol-Prokopczyk H, Gao S, Feng C, Akwaa F, Gewandter JS
PLoS One. 2021; 16(12):e0260742.
PMID: 34914717.


Peripheral edema (i.e., lower limb swelling) can cause pain, weakness, and limited range of motion. However, few studies have examined its prevalence in the U.S. or its association with demographics, comorbidities, activity, or mobility. This study used data from the Health and Retirement Study, a nationally representative longitudinal survey of U.S. adults (age 51+/ N = 19,988 for 2016), to evaluate time trends and correlates of peripheral edema using weighted descriptive statistics and logistic regressions, respectively. Peripheral edema was assessed with the question "Have you had… // Persistent swelling in your feet or ankles?" The weighted prevalence of edema among older U.S. adults was 19% to 20% between 2000 and 2016. Peripheral edema was associated with older age, female sex, non-white race, low wealth, obesity, diabetes, hypertension, pain, low activity levels, and mobility limitations (odds ratios ranging from 1.2-5.6; p-values ≤0.001). This study provides the first estimates of national prevalence and correlates of peripheral edema among older Americans. Peripheral edema is common and strongly associated with comorbidities, pain, low activity levels, and mobility limitations, and disproportionately affects poorer and minority groups. Peripheral edema should be a focus of future research in order to develop novel and cost-effective interventions.