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How To Reduce Swelling In Feet, Ankles, And Legs

Updated on December 5, 2012

Swollen feet, ankles and legs are a common occurrence.

It has a tendency to happen more often in older people, women when they are pregnant, and to anyone that spends a lot of time on their feet.

Symptoms can range from merely uncomfortable to painful, with the possibility of causing limited mobility if swelling is severe. Swelling can be made worse due to the downward pull effects of gravity.

Factors That Cause Swellling

  • Older age
  • Being overweight
  • Pregnancy and water retention in women, due to hormonal shifts at certain times of the month
  • When veins in the legs no longer pump blood back to the heart the way they should
  • Leg infections
  • Long airplane rides when it isn't possible to get up and walk around
  • Certain medications such as hormones and steroids
  • Working in a career that requires standing for prolonged periods of time
  • Injury to the legs or surgery, especially pelvic surgery

Some of the causes can be addressed by changing some of these factors. Making an effort to lose excess weight can often help alleviate symptoms.

Letting the physician know of any possibility of a medication causing swelling, so the medication can be changed could also help. Some factors however cannot be changed.

These times are when it is nice to know some proactive things that can be tried to help to reduce swelling.

Things That Can Be Done To Alleviate Swelling

There really are ways to help to decrease the swelling in legs, ankles and feet that do not even require the use of drugs.

Of course, if swelling continues to be a problem for an extended period of time, and if it interferes with ones quality of life, then it is important to see a physician. But here are a few things that can be tried if swelling is a once in a while occurrence and not constant.

  • Try exercising your legs whenever possible
  • Walk, do some stretches, move the legs to try to help pump the fluid from legs back up to the heart
  • Avoid wearing tight clothing around the thighs if possible, this will help to allow fluid to move
  • When it is necessary to travel on a plane for an extended period, try to get up and walk a bit and stand
  • Wear support stockings which can be found at most medical supply stores and at some drug stores
  • Try to lose excess weight
  • Do your best to lower the amount of salt in the diet, read labels carefully and be aware of sodium in foods
  • Try raising your legs above the heart when lying down
  • Supplements, herbs, and chinese medicine can be effective remedies for swollen lower extremities.

These are some effective methods to help to alleviate swelling, also known as edema or peripheral edema, in the legs, ankles and feet.

When To See The Doctor

Swelling or edema can be uncomfortable, and can also be a cause of concern if it persists or gets worse.

Worsening swelling can be an indication of presence of a more serious medical problem such as liver or kidney problems, or heart problems. Therefore, swelling should not be ignored if it does get worse.

Always see a physician if the swelling is accompanied by shortness of breath or chest pain.

And be sure to contact a physician if the swollen area is red or tender to the touch.

When a patient does go to see their physician because of swelling of the feet, ankles and legs, the physician will want to know things like the time of day when the swelling occurs or gets worse. He may also want to know if certain things that have already been tried help the swelling or have little or no effect.

The physician will want to refer to the patients past medical history, in an attempt to find the root cause of the current swelling.

Once a cause can be determined, then usually an effective treatment can be found.

The ultimate goal is to improve the quality of life for any patient experiencing the symptoms of swelling or edema in the feet, ankles and legs.

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