Swollen legs can occur on any part of the lower limb, including the feet, ankles, calves and thighs.
Swelling in the legs can result from fluid accumulation (fluid retention), inflammation or damage to tissues and joints.
The accumulation of fluid is usually not painful, unless it is caused by an injury.
The legs swell a lot more in the summer and especially at night, after a day of work in the office or in the factory.
Many causes are harmless and long-term (for example, long standing) and often the doctor can easily identify them.
Sometimes, however, swelling of the legs can be a sign of a more serious disorder, such as a heart problem or a blood clot. The doctor who takes care of poor circulation and swelling is the angiologist.
What are the causes of swollen legs?
The most common causes of edema (swelling) are:
Physical inactivity – Edema is more common among people who do not exercise and walk little.
Sitting for a long time – sitting for many hours on the plane slows the flow of blood in the leg veins and can cause swollen legs. It is recommended to get up every hour to go to the bathroom or to take some steps.
Surgical operation – After a surgery the person may have a little swelling in the affected area, for example, after a hip prosthesis surgery .
Heat – especially when combined with physical exertion. When the body has a high temperature, it has difficulty expelling fluids from tissues, especially the ankles.
In summer the problem worsens and the person also feels heavy legs, tired and with a slight tingling.
Burns – the skin reacts to burns with fluid retention and causing localized swelling.
Pregnancy – During pregnancy the woman releases hormones that order the body to retain fluids. Pregnant women tend to retain much more sodium and water than non-pregnant women.
Usually, during pregnancy, the face, hands , legs and feet swell .
When the woman is resting in a reclining position, the enlarged uterus may compress the inferior vena cava, causing obstruction of both femoral veins causing edema.
The blood of a pregnant woman coagulates more easily, which increases the risk of deep venous thrombosis (DVT) that causes pain and swelling in the leg below the knee.
Eclampsia, which is derived from pregnancy-induced hypertension (high blood pressure), can cause edema.
Menstrual cycle and premenstrual syndrome – hormone levels are not stable during the menstrual cycle . In the days leading up to blood loss, there is a reduction in levels of progesterone, the hormone that can cause fluid retention.
The contraceptive pill – any drug that contains estrogen can cause fluid retention. It is not uncommon for women to gain weight while taking the contraceptive pill .
Menopause – Around the menopause period , hormonal fluctuations can cause fluid retention. In addition, postmenopausal hormone replacement therapy can cause edema.
Some medicines – some medicines can cause edema, for example: vasodilators (medicines that are used to open blood vessels), calcium channel blockers, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs , estrogens, heavy chemotherapeutic drugs and some the diabetes as thiazolidinediones.
Malnutrition and / or poor diet – nutritionists claim that a deficiency of thiamine (vitamin B) can contribute to fluid retention. Also a low level of albumin can be caused by kidney disease and cause edema.
Excessive consumption of salt – especially for people who are predisposed to have swollen legs.
More severe causes of swollen legs
Edema can also be caused by an illness, in particular the elderly are the most affected. The main causes are:
Renal diseases – patients with kidney disease may not be able to eliminate sufficient sodium and fluid from the blood.
This causes a greater pressure on the blood vessels that causes a surge of the liquid to the outside.
Patients with edema due to kidney disease have swelling around the eyes and legs.
Heart Failure – When the heart is unable to pump blood properly to all parts of the body, this is called heart failure.
If one or both of the heart’s ventricles loses the ability to pump blood effectively, it can accumulate, causing swelling in the lower limbs.
Chronic lung diseases – Pulmonary diseases that cause edema are several: asthma, chronic bronchitis, COPD, emphysema, pulmonary fibrosis and sarcoidosis.
Some patients may have an accumulation of fluid in the lungs (pulmonary edema).
Liver diseases – diseases, such as cirrhosis, which affect liver function cause the secretion of hormones and chemicals that regulate fluids.
People with hepatic cirrhosis also have a higher pressure in the portal vein, a large vein that carries blood from the intestine, spleen and pancreas to the liver.
These problems can lead to fluid retention in the legs and ascites .
Diabetes – A patient with diabetes may have edema for a variety of reasons, including cardiovascular disease, acute kidney failure, acute liver failure, intestinal diseases that cause loss of protein and certain medications.
Allergies – Some foods and insect bites can cause edema in allergic people .
Thyroid Diseases – People with a thyroid disorder may have swelling in the lower limbs.
Lymphedema in the lower limbs – people who have undergone surgery for a tumor in which the inguinal lymph nodes are removed may develop consistent lymphedema.
Lymphatic filariasis or elephantiasis is a tropical disease caused by a worm that enters the body through the bite of a mosquito.
Filariasis can cause extreme swelling in a limb, the breasts or the genitals.
Varicose veins are abnormal dilatations of the veins that can cause swelling in the ankles and legs.
In severe cases, they may cause ulcers in the legs and feet.
What are the symptoms of swollen legs?
Swelling in the legs can cause pain, burning, itching, feeling heavy and tired in the lower limbs.
Often the patient presents himself in the office with cellulitis and hemorrhoids .
In severe cases, the affected person may have ulcers due to venous stagnation.
Diagnosis of swollen legs
No instrumental exams are required for the diagnosis, but if the physician deems it necessary, an echo-doppler can be prescribed to better assess the veins of the affected lower limbs.
What is the treatment for swollen legs?
The therapeutic possibilities are several: medicines, physiotherapy, phytotherapy and lifestyle changes.
The main treatments are manual lymphatic drainage , diathermy (or ECRT ) or pre-therapy.
Lymphatic drainage is a mechanical therapy: it is done by “manually” opening the lymph nodes and then “deflating” the legs by pushing the fluids towards the heart. It is possible to use hands or electromedical equipment.
Another effective treatment is the vascular pathwaywhich consists of walking in a long, narrow bathtub with water at 22 ° C and then in another with 32 ° C water. The abrupt change in temperature outside causes a contraction followed by a relaxation of the arteries, thus inducing vascular gymnastics.
Phytotherapy is useful for the anti-emetic effect with preparations of chestnut from India, Crataegus oxyacantha, Asian centella, coumarin, etc. found in herbal medicine.
Swollen Leg Medications
The doctor may prescribe some medicines such as Venoruton for venous insufficiency and fragility of the capillaries.
10 natural remedies for swollen legs:
- Magnesium Supplements
A deficiency magnesium can contribute to form edema.
A magnesium supplement can give relief.
Most recommendations are 200 mg twice daily.
The RDA for magnesium is 350 mg per day.
Physical exercise can help improve circulation and yoga is a great way to move and focus on the circulatory system.
We recommend talking to the doctor first, especially those who have never done yoga.
For beginners, it is best to take part in guided classes with an instructor so that he can help you do the correct postures.
Once you have become familiar with the exercises, you may even be left alone at home.
- Tonic Water
Diving your foot into the tonic water at room temperature can help reduce swelling.
Tonic water contains quinine (an extract with analgesic and antipyretic properties)
which, together with the tonic water bubbles, reduces inflammation.
Simply keep your foot in the water.
- Grapefruit Essential Oil
Taking a not too hot bath in the bathtub can help reduce swelling,
especially if you also use a few drops of grapefruit essential oil.
If it is not possible to take a bath, just soak your feet.
Alternatively, you can mix the grapefruit drops with almond oil or olive oil and make a small massage on the feet and legs.
In this case, practice a massage with graduated pressure starting from the feet up.
- Bathing in salt water
Adding a handful of salts in the bath tub is another method to increase the effectiveness of the bath.
As with grapefruit oil , you can also use a bucket if the swelling is limited to the feet and ankles.
If the calves are very swollen, a bath in warm water is probably the best solution.
Ice is not indicated for the swollen legs because it only has a vasoconstriction effect, thus not favoring the absorption of the liquid.
- Lymphatic drainage massage
A manual lymphatic drainage is certainly an effective solution to reduce edema.
If the woman is pregnant, we recommend looking for a therapist who specializes in prenatal massage.
- Graduated compression fittings
Wear clothing or a graduated compression bandage can help prevent swelling.
There are compression stockings of various lengths that reach up to the knee or that cover the entire leg.
If you feel discomfort, you can wear graduated socks that do not cover the foot as well.
It is now possible to use Kinesio taping which promotes circulation and swelling absorption.
- Raising your feet
Gravity favors stagnation of liquids down. When lying down, it is recommended to keep your legs elevated by putting some pillows under your feet.
Swim or float in the water can help relieve swelling in the feet and ankles. Water pressure
can help improve circulation of fluids in the body.
Excess salt contributes to edema.
Increased fluid intake can dilute salt in the body.
You should drink at least 8-10 glasses of water a day.
To increase draining and anti-inflammatory properties, leave a couple of slices of cucumber and lemon infused in the water.
How to prevent and maintain the results obtained?
It is necessary to change the habits of daily life to suffer less with this disorder. In particular, we recommend:
- Lose weight;
- Follow a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and cereals;
- Avoid drinking alcohol, coffee and cigarette smoke;
- Wear shoes without heels, preferably a sneaker;
- Do not stand too long. If work forces you to maintain this posture, it is best to try to take a few steps or stand on tiptoe from time to time;
- Perform regular physical activity (cycling, swimming, gymnastics, etc.) and follow a non-sedentary lifestyle;
- Do not wear tight clothing;
- Place shims under the foot of the bed to keep your legs lifted all night long and encourage venous return.