Swollen legs

Leg swelling can occur in any part of the leg, including feet, ankles, calves, or thighs.

Leg swelling can be caused by accumulation of fluid (water retention), inflammation or injury to tissues or joints.

The accumulation of fluid is not painful in itself, as long as it is not caused by an injury.

The legs are more likely to be swollen in the summer and in the evening after a day’s work in the office or factory.
Many causes are harmless for a long time (for example, long standing) and often they are medically easy to identify.
However, sometimes swelling of the legs can be signs of more serious disorders, such as a heart problem or a blood clot.

The doctor who takes care of the problems of blood circulation and swelling is the angiologist.


What are the causes of swollen legs?

The most common causes of edema (swelling) are:

Physical inactivity – edema occurs in people who do not exercise and do not walk much

Sitting for long periods of time – sitting on an airplane for long periods of time slows blood flow in the leg veins and can cause leg swelling.
It is recommended to get up every hour and go to the toilet or take a few steps.

Surgery – after surgery, there may be a slight swelling in the affected area, for example, after implantation of a hip prosthesis.

Warmth – especially when combined with physical exertion. If the temperature in the body is elevated, it is difficult to remove the fluid from the tissues, especially from the ankles.
In summer, the problem increases. In addition, the legs feel heavy and tired and you feel a slight tingling.

Burns – the skin responds to burns by retaining fluid and swelling locally.

Pregnancy – during pregnancy, the woman makes hormones that command the body to retain fluids. Pregnant women tend to store much more sodium and water than women who are not pregnant.
Normally, the face, hands, legs and feet swell during pregnancy. If the woman is at rest in a curved posture, the dilated uterus can press on the inferior vena cava, thus leading to narrowing of both femoral veins, causing edema.

The blood of a pregnant woman clots faster. This increases the risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT), which causes pain and leg swelling below the knees.
Eclampsia, which is related to hypertension (high blood pressure) in pregnancy, can cause edema.

Menstrual cycle and premenstrual syndrome – hormone levels are not stable during the menstrual cycle. In the days preceding the menstrual period, there is a decrease in progesterone, a hormone that can cause fluid retention.

Birth control pill – any medication that contains estrogens can lead to water retention. Weight gain is not uncommon in women while taking contraceptives.

Menopause – around the time of menopause, hormone fluctuations can lead to fluid retention. In addition, hormone replacement therapy in postmenopause can lead to edema formation.

Medications – some medications can cause edema, for example: vasodilators (drugs that cause vasodilation), calcium channel blockers, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories, estrogens, heavy chemotherapy drugs, and some diabetes drugs, such as thiazolidinediones.

Malnutrition and/or poor diet – Nutritionists say that a lack of thiamine (vitamin B) intake can contribute to fluid retention.
Also, low albumin levels can be caused by kidney disease and cause edema.

Excessive salt consumption – especially in people who are prone to leg swelling.

Serious causes of swollen legs

The edema can also be caused by a disease. Mostly older people are more affected and the causes are:

Kidney disease – Patients with kidney disease may not be able to excrete enough fluid and sodium from the blood.
This results in greater pressure on the blood vessels, which pushes the fluid outwards.
Patients with edema from kidney disease have swelling on the legs and around the eyes.

Heart failure – when the heart does not pump blood sufficiently to all parts of the body, it is called heart failure.
If one or both ventricles of the heart lose sufficient pumping power, blood can accumulate and cause swelling in the lower extremities.

Chronic pulmonary diseases – there are various lung diseases that can cause edema, including: asthma, chronic bronchitis, COPD, emphysema, pulmonary fibrosis and sarcoidosis.
Some patients may suffer from fluid retention in the lungs (pulmonary edema).

Liver disease – Diseases such as cirrhosis, which affect liver function, cause secretion of hormones and chemicals that regulate fluids.
People with hepatic cirrhosis also have increased pressure on the portal vein, which is a large vein that carries blood from the intestines, 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 renal failure, acute hepatic insufficiency, and intestinal disorders that lead to loss of protein, and certain medications.

Allergy – some foods and insect bites can cause edema in allergic people.

Thyroid disorders – People with a thyroid disorder may experience swelling in the lower extremities.

Lymphedema on the lower extremities – People who have had tumor surgery with removal of the inguinal lymph nodes may develop considerable lymphedema.
Lymphatic filariasis or elephantiasis is a tropical disease caused by a worm entering the body through a mosquito bite.
Filariasis can cause extreme swelling on one limb, breasts, or genitals.
Varicose veins are abnormal dilations of the veins that can cause swelling of the legs and ankles.
In severe cases, ulcers may develop on the legs and feet.

What are the symptoms of leg swelling?

Leg swelling can cause pain, burning, itching, heaviness and fatigue in the lower extremities.
Often the patient presents in practice with cellulitis and hemorrhoids.
In severe cases, the person may end up getting ulcers due to venous stagnation.

Diagnosis of leg swelling

No instrumental examinations are used to make a diagnosis, but if the doctor deems it necessary, he may order Doppler sonography for a better assessment of the veins in the affected lower extremities.

What is the therapy for leg swelling?

The therapeutic options are different: medicines, physiotherapy, herbal medicine and lifestyle changes.
The main applications are manual lymphatic drainage, diathermy (or Tecartherapy) or pressure treatment.

Lymphatic drainage is a mechanical form of therapy. It is done by manually “opening” the lymph nodes and then “emptying” the legs by pushing the fluid to the heart. The treatment can be carried out with the hands or with electromedical equipment.

Another effective therapy is alternating baths, in which you go through a long, narrow pool with 22 ° C cold water and then through one with 32 ° C warm water.
The sudden change in the outside temperature leads first to contraction and then to relaxation of the arteries. This induces vascular gymnastics.

Herbal medicine with preparations based on horse chestnut, hawthorn, centella, coumarin, etc., available in drugstores, can bring help through the decongestant effect.

Medication for swollen legs
The doctor may prescribe medications such as venostasin or venoruton for venous insufficiency and capillary weakness.

10 natural remedies for leg swelling:

1. Magnesium supplements
A lack of magnesium can contribute to the formation of edema.
A magnesium supplement can bring relief.
Most often, 200 mg twice a day is recommended.
The recommended daily allowance for magnesium is 350 mg.

2. Yoga
physical exercises can improve circulation and yoga is an excellent way to move and focus on the circulatory system.
You should talk to the doctor beforehand, especially if you have never done yoga before.
For beginners, it is better to attend classes led by an instructor. So he can help to take the right posture.
If you know the exercises, you can continue alone at home.

3. Tonic water A foot bath in room-warm tonic water
can help reduce swelling.
Tonic water contains quinine (an extract with antipyretic and analgesic properties), which, together with the air bubbles in the tonic water, reduces inflammation.
It is enough to keep your legs in the water.

4. Grapefruit essential oil A bath that is not too warm can help reduce swelling, especially if you also use a few drops of grapefruit
essential oil. 
If a full bath is not possible, you can only do a foot bath.
Alternatively, you can mix the grapefruit oil with almond or olive oil and use it to perform a small massage on your feet and legs.
In this case, perform the massage with increasing pressure from the feet up to the legs.

5. Saltwater bath

With a handful of table salt you can also increase the effectiveness of the bath.
As with grapefruit oil, you can only do a foot bath in a bucket if the swelling is limited to the feet and ankles.
If the calves are severely swollen, a full bath in lukewarm water is the better solution.
Ice is not recommended for swollen legs, because it only has a vasoconstrictive effect. It therefore does not favor the absorption of the liquid.

6. Lymphatic drainage Manual lymphatic drainage
is certainly an effective solution for reducing edema.
If a woman is pregnant, it is recommended to consult a special therapist for prenatal massage.

7. Accessories for gradual compression
The use of garments or bandages for gradual compression can help prevent swelling.
There are graduated compression stockings of different lengths that reach up to the knee or enclose the entire leg.
If discomfort occurs, you can find stockings that do not involve the foot.
Today, it is also possible to apply Kinesio taping, which promotes blood circulation and the absorption of swelling.

8. Put
your feet up 
Gravity favors the stasis of the liquid downwards. If you lie down, it is advisable to raise your legs by placing some cushions under your feet.

9. Swimming Swimming
or floating in the water can help with swelling of the ankles and feet. The water pressure can contribute to improving the circulation of fluids in the organism.

10. Drinking
Excess salt contributes to the formation of edema.

An increased fluid intake dilutes the salt in the organism.
At least 8-10 glasses of water a day are recommended.
To increase the draining and anti-inflammatory effect, you can add a few cucumber and lemon slices to the water.

How to prevent and maintain the results achieved?

It is important to change daily lifestyle habits in order to suffer less from this disorder. Especially:

  • reduce weight;
  • pay attention to a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and cereals;
  • abstain from alcohol, coffee and cigarettes;
  • avoid high heels and prefer to wear sneakers;
  • do not stand still in one place for too long; if you are forced to do so due to your job, you should always take a few steps or stand on tiptoe every now and then;
  • regularly engage in sports (cycling, swimming, gymnastics, etc.) and lead an active lifestyle;
  • do not wear tight-fitting clothing;
  • raise the foot of the bed so that the legs are higher at night to support venous return.

Read more: