Swelling in your legs is often caused by the buildup of fluids, known as edema. This can happen for various reasons like standing or sitting for long periods, eating too much salty food, or due to certain health problems. Conditions like heart failure, kidney issues, and blood clots can also cause leg swelling. The type of swelling may range from slight puffiness to significant enlargement and may be accompanied by other symptoms.
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What Causes Swelling in the Legs?
1. Standing or Sitting for Long Periods
You might notice swelling in your legs if you stand or sit in one place for too long. This happens because gravity pulls the fluids down to your legs, causing them to pool. For example, if you’ve ever had a long car ride or been on a plane for hours, you might notice your legs swelling.
How to prevent it
- Move around often
- Elevate your legs
- Wear compression stockings
2. Eating Too Much Salty Food
Too much salt in your diet can specifically cause your body to hold on to extra water. This extra water can result in swelling in your legs. How to Avoid It: Try to eat less salty food. Look for low-sodium options when shopping, and avoid adding extra salt to your meals.
3. Heart Failure
According to the National Library of Medicine, heart failure can cause your legs to swell. This happens when your heart doesn’t pump blood as well as it should and fluids back up in your legs. Other symptoms of heart failure include difficulty breathing with activity or when lying down and feeling more tired than usual.
How to Deal with It: If you think heart failure might cause your swelling, talk to a doctor. They can check your heart and may prescribe you medicine to help.
4. Kidney Issues
Kidney problems can affect how your body balances fluids. If your kidneys aren’t working correctly, you might see swelling in your legs. Other symptoms include shortness of breath, blood in your pee, and trouble sleeping.
How to Deal with It: Again, a doctor can help you find out if kidney disease is causing the problem. They might need to do some tests and will work with you to find the best treatment.
5. Blood Clots
Blood clots can actually block blood flow in your legs. When this happens, fluids might build up, causing swelling. Other symptoms include pain or tenderness and red or discolored skin in your leg.
How to prevent it
- Stay active
- Wear loose, comfortable clothing
- Follow your doctor’s advice if you are at risk
Some medicines might make your legs swell. Blood pressure medications, steroids, and hormone replacement therapy are a few examples. Talk to your doctor if you think this is happening to you.
Expecting a baby? Pregnancy often comes with swollen legs, especially during the third trimester. This is usually due to increased blood volume and hormonal changes. Although this is normal, it should be watched. If the swelling is sudden or severe, contact your doctor. That is because sudden or severe swelling could be a sign of preeclampsia, a serious condition that requires immediate medical attention.
How to ease swelling during pregnancy: Take walks more often, wear comfortable shoes, stay hydrated, and keep your legs elevated.
Injuries like sprains or fractures can also cause swelling in one or both legs. Typically, the affected area will also be painful and could be bruised. Immediate treatment, such as applying ice and elevating the leg, can reduce the swelling. However, for persistent or severe swelling, you should consult a healthcare professional.
9. Infections in the Leg
An infection in your leg can cause swelling. You’ll need to see a doctor to get the right treatment.
10. Allergic Reactions
Although rare, allergies to certain foods or insect bites can result in swollen legs. This is usually accompanied by other symptoms like itching or hives. You might need medicine to help with this.
11. Chronic Venous Insufficiency
In chronic venous insufficiency, the valves in your veins weaken, making it difficult for blood to flow back to the heart. Consequently, blood pools in the legs, resulting in swelling and discomfort.
Tips for Reducing Swelling
Elevate Your Legs
If you lie down and put your legs up on some pillows, it can help reduce swelling.
Wear Support Stockings
You can find special stockings at the drugstore that help keep swelling down. These might be especially helpful if you have to stand or sit a lot for work.
Physical activity can improve circulation and prevent blood from pooling in your legs. Simple exercises, like walking or swimming, can make a big difference.
Drink Plenty of Water
Even though swelling is often due to too much water in your legs, drinking enough fluids can actually help. When you’re well-hydrated, your body can move fluids around more easily.
When to Seek Professional Help
If your leg swelling persists or is accompanied by other symptoms like shortness of breath or chest pain, it’s crucial to get medical attention. These could be signs of a serious issue requiring immediate treatment.
Red Flags: Symptoms You Shouldn’t Ignore
Severe pain, redness, and warmth around the swollen area are warning signs that need immediate attention. Additionally, if the swelling is only in one leg, it could indicate a blood clot, which is a medical emergency.