Water retention is a common problem associated with pregnancy, diabetes, menstruation, periods of prolonged heat, and inactivity due to injury or illness. Water retention (edema) often manifests in the legs. Discomfort and occasional pain from swollen feet or legs most often arises after period of prolonged sitting or bed-rest.
Tips to Reduce Swelling in Legs
Along with the sensation of heavy legs, many people struggle with swollen ankles, calves, and feet. Edema, or excess water accumulating in body tissue, though uncomfortable, is generally considered non-threatening. Swollen legs resulting from water retention, however, can signal more serious health conditions related to kidneys or the heart. Anyone suffering from protracted edema should consult with a physician.
What Causes Swollen Legs
All other conditions aside, swollen legs due to water retention are often the result of a lack of regular physical activity. Due to periods of prolonged inactivity and/or other health or hormonal conditions can cause capillaries to leak water into the surrounding tissues. Increased pressure in the capillaries prevents water from returning to the bloodstream. The resulting decrease in water in the bloodstream prompts the kidneys to withhold water to compensate for the imbalance.
When the kidneys withhold more fluid, more fluid seeps through the capillaries, thereby prompting further water-retention in the Kidneys. The cycle continues, and swelling accelerates rapidly in an affected region, such as the legs.
Many potential factors contribute to the development of edema. Hot weather, hormone fluctuations, and a high sodium diet can contribute to increased fluid secreting into surrounding tissues. Edema may also arise as a side effect of certain medications. Although it seems to arise suddenly and without warning, water retention often takes much longer to subside, many times lasting for several days.
When to Consult a Doctor
In most cases, edema is completely harmless. Usually, the condition disappears within 24 hours. If the conditions is persistent or recurring, consult your physician immediately. Persistent edema may signal serious kidney problems, diabetes, or cancer. Consult with a physician immediately if there is sudden swelling of the legs and/or the swelling is accompanied by a hot sensation or direct pain. If there are other symptoms, such as fever, shortness of breath, or chest pain you may need immediate emergency care.
Even in cases where serious causes of edema have been ruled-out, the condition should not persist without intervention. Swelling often arises with pain, itching, and sometimes skin rashes. In addition, water weight can increase the risk of infections, pressure sores, ulcers, and the development of blood clots in the legs, as clots are a bi-product of increased capillary pressure.
What you can do to reduce swelling in legs and water retention:
- When the legs feel swollen, firm, or tight, it helps to tread cold water and use foot baths that alternate between hot and cold water.
- Elevating the legs relieves some of the pressure and promotes the flow of fluids from the body’s extremities.
- A low-sodium diet prevents excessive water retention and promotes the efficient exchange of bodily fluids.
- Engaging in regular physical activities such as jogging, stretching, yoga, walking, cycling, and resistance training support healthy blood flow and promote excretion of harmful substances from the tissues.
- Avoiding prolonged periods of sitting and/or recline.
- Wearing compression stockings on swollen legs help to apply pressure to the legs and prevent water accumulation in those effected regions.
- Consuming naturally diuretic foods and drinks and medications may be prescribed by a doctor to flush the kidneys and thereby relieve uncomfortable leg swelling.