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What Can You Do For Swollen Legs?

Swelling of the legs, ankles or feet is a fairly common problem. It can have a number of possible causes and often afflicts people who are on their feet many hours a day, especially if that time is spent being relatively immobile. Sales clerks, teachers, and others in similar positions often suffer from swelling in their legs. The good news, however, is that in many cases the condition is quite correctable.

Understanding Why Our Legs Can Become Swollen

One reason for such swelling is simply due to the basic fact that our bodies contain a great deal of liquid. Every cell of our bodies is bathed in watery liquid -- fluids that cycle constantly back and forth between our bloodstreams and the gaps between our tissue cells, gaps that are called the interstitial space.

When there is a disruption of any sort in the flow of fluid between this space and our bloodstream, the result can be some swelling in our legs, ankles and feet. And there are, of course, a number of things which can lead to such a disruption.

Some such causes are well known. Varicose veins, for example, are veins that have been stretched out and that are no longer functioning efficiently. They do a poor job of helping move the blood back to your heart, resulting in a backup or pooling of blood in your legs, leading to excess interstitial fluid that may result in swelling.

Most women know that leg swelling is common during pregnancy, but a number of other conditions can also contribute to leg swelling, which is also called edema. In idiopathic edema, leg swelling can occur after standing for several hours, especially in hot weather, although the exact reason why such swelling takes place is not certain.

It is known, however, that people with congestive heart failure often have trouble with swollen legs. This is because the weakened heart muscle is unable to operate efficiently as a pump, which leads to blood stagnating in the veins, especially in the extremities, such as the legs and feet.

Other conditions that can lead to leg, ankle and foot swelling include malnutrition, disorders of the liver, kidney, or intestines, and even very common health problems such as allergies, insect bites or bacterial infections. A more serious health condition which can lead to leg swelling can be a blockage of the lymphatic system resulting from cancer or lymph gland inflammation.

Obviously, if leg, ankle and foot swelling is a common problem for you, and especially if it is one that is accompanied by pain or severe discomfort, an immediate cause of action should be to consult with your physician. There may be serious health issues that are underlying the problem.

Taking Action To Alleviate Swollen Legs

In most cases, however, there are simple and effective actions you can take to help swollen legs. The easiest one is simply to elevate your legs. Raising your feet six to twelve inches higher than your heart can usually lead to a quick reduction of swelling of the legs, ankles or feet. It's a remedy you should try several times a day, if possible. If you are not able to lie down and elevate your feet, you should at least sit down and prop your feet up on a footstool, sofa or another chair for a short period of time. You can also get relief at night by putting a couple of pillows under the foot of your bed in order to elevate it slightly.

One of the most effective means of treating the problem is to wear high-quality compression hosiery. This type of support hose provides the highest degree of compression support at the ankles, with the compression gradually decreasing up the leg. This helps the blood to circulate more efficiently in your leg and helps lessen the pooling of fluid in your lower extremities. The best approach, of course, is to put on the compression hosiery as soon as you rise in the morning, before your legs, ankles and feet have had a chance to swell.

Another way to prevent or at least minimize edema is to increase the amount of exercise you are getting. Strengthening the muscles in your legs and feet will allow them to do a better job of helping push blood and other fluids out of your legs and back into the body. The simple act of walking produces muscle contractions that helps push your blood back through your veins to your heart.

Watching the amount of salt in your diet can also help reduce swelling. Staying away from salt-cured foods and prepared foods that are high in sodium, as well as not adding extra salt at the dinner table, can help avoid the increase in swelling that often results from excessive dietary sodium.

If you are overweight, losing that extra weight can also help reduce the problem of leg, ankle and foot swelling. Weight loss will reduce the strain and pressure on the veins in your legs and abdomen, helping to improve circulation. And improved circulation is a key to avoiding leg swelling.

Swollen Legs Are Not A Problem To Ignore

While swelling of the legs, ankles and feet may be a fairly common problem, it is one that we all would like to avoid. Most importantly, when it is accompanied by pain, redness, heat in your legs, an open sore, the swelling of only one limb, or shortness of breath, it is often an indication of a more serious health problem. In any of these situations, consult with your physician as soon as possible.

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