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.