The medicinal term for swollen lower legs, feet, and legs is edema. There are several factors that contribute to this condition including prolonged sitting or standing.
In more serious cases it can be the result of an underlying medical condition such as arthritis, lymph-edema (blocked lymph channel), venous insufficiency, blood clots and heart, liver or kidney disease. It can also be caused by hormonal imbalance, pregnancy, obesity, injury, infection, and medications.
Aside from the discomfort it causes, edema can also make you feel more self-aware, even embarrassed.
What is Edema?
Edema is fluid retention in your body’s tissues. It normally affects the limbs, particularly legs and feet.
- Most Common Symptoms of Edema
- Stretched or shiny skin
- Abdominal bloating
- Swelling of the tissue under your skin
- Skin that remains indented after being pressed for several seconds
How to treat Edema
1# R-I-C-E method
There’s no doubt one of the most effective methods for reducing the symptoms of edema is the R-I-C-E method.
Rest your legs
Sitting can lead to blood vessel constriction in the waist and knee areas. That’s why it’s recommended to lie down on your back and stimulate blood flow in the lower part of your body. It’s also important to take off your shoes.
Applying cold compresses on your legs and feet will tighten your blood vessels and direct blood flow back to your heart. Make sure you hold the ice for no more than 10 minutes at a time.
Bandage your feet and ankles or just put on a compression sock to reduce the swelling and redirect blood flow up your leg.
Lie down and raise your legs to promote blood flow in the upper part of your body. Use a pillow or a chair to support your legs.
Massage is also extremely beneficial for reducing swelling in the ankles and feet because it releases the accumulated fluid in your skin tissue and cells. It also significantly improves blood flow.
How to avoid Edema:
Reduce your salt intake
Excessive salt intake leads to water retention, thus swelling, as the body strives to maintain a proper sodium-water ratio outside the cell walls.
Similarly to the effects excess sodium produces, high amounts of insulin in the body can also lead to fluid and sodium retention, especially in people suffering from type 2 diabetes. This can eventually trigger hypertension and congestive heart failure.
As unexpected as it may sound, dehydration can also cause edema. The thing is water deficiency makes the body store as much water into the cells as possible causing them to swell. In some serious cases, it can even cause the brain to swell and cause permanent brain damage. Health experts recommend drinking at least 10 glasses of water on a regular daily basis.
Magnesium is extremely beneficial for reducing fluid retention in women when having their period. This mineral also relieves muscle cramps that often go hand in hand with edema.
Exercise, especially one targeting your leg muscles, makes the muscle contract, thus redirect blood flow back to the heart. It’s especially important for people who spend all day sitting or standing. You should also have in mind to regularly flex and stretch your legs if sitting for too long. And, avoid crossing your legs when sitting. Exercise is also beneficial for improving lymph flow and preventing it from remaining into your extremities.