Edema is an observable swelling in certain parts of the body. Edema most commonly occurs in the feet and legs, where it also is referred to as peripheral edema. The swelling is the result of the accumulation of excess fluid under the skin in the spaces within the tissues that are outside of the blood vessels. These spaces are known as interstitial spaces or compartments. Most of the body's fluids that are found outside of the cells are normally stored in two spaces; the blood vessels (where the fluids are called the blood volume) and the interstitial spaces (where the fluids are called the interstitial fluid).
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Things you can do to help with the swelling
Sit down and stay off your feet. Remove shoes and socks. Elevate your feet and legs. Place a pillow under your heels, and prop your feet on a chair or high stool. Soak your feet in cool water. Reduce your salt intake. Salt causes you to retain water. Take diuretics if prescribed by your doctor. Diuretics increase urination by pulling excess fluid out of your cellular tissues. .
See a cardiologist if your swollen feet are due to heart problems. When a heart is damaged, it has trouble pumping blood effectively and efficiently, causing bodily fluids to pool in the feet. Heart-muscle-strengthening drugs can help reduce swelling in the feet. Practice good health habits. Proper nutrition and daily exercise improve the health of your cardiovascular system and your circulation, helping to reduce the tendency of your feet to swell.
Foot, leg, and ankle swelling is common with the following situations:
- Prolonged standing
- Long airplane flights or automobile rides
- Menstrual periods (for some women)
- Pregnancy -- excessive swelling may be a sign of pre-eclampsia, a serious condition sometimes called toxemia, that includes high blood pressure and swelling
- Being overweight
- Increased age
- Injury or trauma to your ankle or foot
Swollen legs may be a sign of heart failure, kidney failure, or liver failure. In these conditions, there is too much fluid in the body.
Other conditions that can cause swelling to one or both legs include:
- Blood clot
- Leg infection
- Venous insufficiency (when the veins in your legs are unable to adequately pump blood back to the heart)
- Varicose veins
- Burns (including sunburn)
- Insect bite or sting
- Starvation or malnutrition
- Surgery to your leg or foot
Certain medications may also cause your legs to swell:
- Hormones like estrogen (in birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy) and testosterone
- A group of blood pressure lowering drugs called calcium channel blockers (such as nifedipine, amlodipine, diltiazem, felodipine, and verapamil)
- Antidepressants, including MAO inhibitors (such as phenelzine and tranylcypromine) and tricyclics (such as nortriptyline, desipramine, and amitriptyline)
So, if the swelling doesn't go down with the above mentioned tips, do make an appt with your doctor. If the swelling gets worse or you feel pain, numbness do go to the ER to be seen.
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