Leg Edema: Causes, Diagnosis and Self Care techniques


When you observe a swelling sensation on your legs, most likely, you are encountering water retention in your legs, or what is also called leg edema. This can be an agonizing feeling and can occur in either leg. You can notice it quickly if the swelling appears in the calves or the lower part of your leg.

What Are The Main Causes of Leg Edema?

  • Pregnancy: Leg edema usually exhibits during the last trimester of the pregnancy. Due to the developing fetus, force is applied to the vein that carries blood from the legs, known as the vena cava. And since body fluid also expands during pregnancy, any excess fluid accumulates in the feet.
  • Prolonged standing or sitting position: One of the most common causes of leg edema is sitting or standing for long periods. This hinders blood circulation. Thus, blood is pushed down the lower leg that prompts the swelling.
  • Medication side effects: Some medicines, when distributed to patients, produce antagonistic effects like soreness and swelling of the legs and other parts of the body. Examples are anti-depressants, anti-inflammatory drugs, steroids, and support medicines for high blood pressure.
  • Allergic reaction: Allergies on specific foods or insect bites may also cause soreness. Bee stings, for instance, can directly drive the swelling of the area where a bee stung a person. The swelling is essentially the body’s response to the histamines created by the allergic reaction.
  • Internal injury: In some instances, an internal injury can affect the legs or kidney and other internal organ failures. If there is a blood-clotting presence, it will also lead to leg edema since there is a stop in the normal blood flow. 
  • Veins Enlargement: When you catch varicose veins, this means the veins become expanded, thus, causing ankle and leg swelling, followed by throbbing leg pain.


To know what might be causing your edema, your physician will first conduct a physical exam and enquire about your medical history. This data is often enough to know the underlying cause of your edema. In some cases, blood tests, ultrasound exams, X-rays, magnetic resonance imaging, or urine analysis may be needed.

Self Care techniques to Leg Edema: 

The below tips may help reduce edema and keep it from happening again. Before trying these self-care routines, discuss with your doctor about which ones are perfect for you.

  1. Elevation. Hold the enlarged part of your body above your heart level many times a day. In some instances, elevating the swollen leg while you sleep may be helpful.
  2. Movement. Using and moving the muscles in your leg’s part affected by edema may help throw away the swelling-causing fluid back toward your heart. Ask your physician about workouts you can do that may reduce swelling.
  3. Massage. Stroking the involved area toward your heart using firm, but not uncomfortable, pressure may help move the fluid out of that leg.
  4. Compression. Suppose one of your limbs is swayed by edema. In that case, your doctor may suggest you wear sleeves, compression stockings, or gloves, usually modeled after your inflammation has gone down, to check further swelling from occurring. These cute garments keep the pressure on your legs to block fluid from collecting in the tissue.
  5. Protection. Keep the swollen area moisturized, clean, and free from injury. Cracked and dry skin is more prone to cuts, scrapes, and infection. Always cover your feet with socks if that’s where the swelling occurs.
  6. Reduce salt intake. Limit how much salt you consume. Salt can increase fluid preservation and worsen edema.

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