Edema at Period Time: Causes and Pathology

Edema at period time can affect the face, hands, lower legs, and abdomen. It is caused by several factors, including excessive physical work, emotional stress, and Spleen and Kidney deficiency.


Excessive physical work weakens the Spleen; if it goes on for many years it may also affect the Kidneys. Deficient Spleen- and Kidney-Yang fails to transform, transport, and excrete fluids which accumulate in the space between the skin and muscles and lead to edema, usually affecting the ankles and occurring before or during the period.

This is called ‘real edema’, i.e. the visible swelling is caused by actual retention of fluids under the skin: if the skin is pressed with the thumb, it leaves a dip. If the edematous area is needled with fairly thick needles, a clear fluid can be seen trickling out when the needles are withdrawn.

Emotional stress due to anger, worry, guilt, frustration, and resentment may lead to stagnation of Liver-Qi; stagnant Liver-Qi does not flow freely and fails to promote the transformation of fluids all over the body. This may lead to accumulation of Qi in the space between the skin and muscles. This is called ‘not real edema’ because it is caused by stagnation of Qi rather than actual fluids.

When the skin is pressed with the thumb, it does not leave a dip. This type of edema is more likely to affect the face, hands, and breast and occurs before the period.


The main pathological factors causing edema at period time are:

  • Spleen- and Kidney-Yang deficiency
  • stagnation of Qi

The edema from Spleen- and Kidney-Yang deficiency tends to be permanent and becomes worse during the period, while that from stagnation of Qi may appear only before the period.