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What Is the Treatment for Leg Edema?

By Britt Archer
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Leg edema is the swelling of all or parts of the leg and feet because of too much fluid being retained by the body. Sometimes the reason for the fluid retention is benign, such as standing for a long time on the job or spraining an ankle. Other times it can be more serious and can include disease, injury, inflammation or preeclampsia in pregnant women. The treatment for leg edema includes keeping the legs up above the level of the heart when sitting or lying down, a low-salt diet, exercise to move the fluid away from the extremities, and wearing special stockings that are designed for leg support.

In some instances, leg edema can be the body’s response to medication. These prescription medications can include antidepressants, calcium channel blockers that are used to lower high blood pressure, steroids, and hormones such as testosterone and estrogen. Leg edema can also be the body’s response to a burn, surgery, lymph node blockage, a blood clot or an insect’s bite. Sometimes overweight people experience swelling from fluid in their legs, and the treatment for leg edema in this case could include losing weight. Treatment for leg edema is determined by the cause and can differ from person to person, even though the swollen leg or foot will look the same no matter what the cause is. Sometimes treatment for leg edema will include diuretics that help a patient rid the body of extra fluid.

Leg edema can occur for no obvious or discernible reason, and this is called idiopathic edema. Often the treatment for idiopathic edema calls for diuretics. This is a valid treatment, but sometimes it produces paradoxical results with a rebound effect, causing the patient to retain more fluid when the diuretics are no longer being ingested. It may take an idiopathic edema patient up to 21 days without diuretics to break the rebound pattern.

Some symptoms of edema that accompany certain cases require immediate medical attention. A person should phone their doctor or emergency services provider right away if he or she also feels short of breath or is experiencing pains or a tight feeling in the chest, or if the patient is confused or dizzy. A doctor also should be consulted if a patient is not producing a sufficient amount of urine, if a fever is present, if the swollen area feels hot or the skin appears red, or if the patient has liver, heart or kidney disease.

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Discussion Comments
By ysmina — On Jun 22, 2013

I use water pills when I have edema and compression socks. They usually do the trick.

The only time they don't work is when I have to take an international flight. By the time I reach my destination, my feet are so huge, it's scary.

By burcinc — On Jun 21, 2013

@feruze-- Do you have preeclampsia? If you do, ask your doctor about the leg edema because you might be in need of a better treatment. I'm sure you know that high blood pressure during pregnancy can be dangerous.

If you don't have preeclampsia, you probably have swelling from the added weight of the baby and from standing up too much. I had the same issue during my two pregnancies.

Make sure you are not consuming too much salt because salt holds up water. Foot soaks with Epsom salt are great. If you can get your husband to do some foot and leg massage, that will also help.

Lastly, take it easy! Try and keep your feet up while resting so that the blood doesn't rush down into your legs and feet don't cause more swelling. Put some pillows under your feet at night.

By bear78 — On Jun 20, 2013

I'm eight months pregnant and experiencing a lot of swelling in my feet and lower legs. I don't want to take any medications. What can I do?

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