Swollen legs: causes, remedies and when to consult a doctor

Swollen legs: causes, remedies and when to consult a doctor

Swollen feet and legs:causes,remedies
Swollen feet and legs
If the swollen leg syndrome is not specific to the summer, this disorder becomes more frequent when the thermometer rises and complicates the lives of sufferers.
Especially when it is very hot , the problem of swollen legs is accentuated, along with tiredness, stiffness and an unpleasant feeling of heaviness.
In most cases, swelling in the legs, ankles and feet (peripheral edema) is the consequence of an accumulation of liquids: water stagnates in the feet or legs, which swell.
Not only an unpleasant sensation, the swelling in the legs can be a visible problem, unpleasant from the aesthetic point of view but above all, painful and also very limiting in everyday life.
A disorder that can contribute to unhealthy lifestyles and poor nutrition, which increase the workload of the veins. Among the bad habits and the predisposing conditions there are:

  • eat salty foods
  • spend too much time sitting or living a sedentary life
  • wear high heels and tight clothes
  • being overweight 
  • suffer from diabetes and high cholesterol.

They are all risk factors for the health and lightness of your legs. 
The solution is to get back on the move, that is to do a constant physical activity (even a simple walk every day), maintain a healthy weight (or regain it) and choose the right diet to deflate the legs, bringing food that can improve to the table. microcirculation, favor diuresis and purify toxins. 

Swollen legs: symptoms

The swollen legs are the result of an excess of water that comes from the blood and lymphatic vessels.
The accumulation of water in the tissue (called peripheral edema) makes the skin stretched to the touch. Also note the sign of the fovea (dimple): pushing on the edema, there remains a depression that persists for a few minutes.
The swelling in the legs is accentuated especially in the evening. The symptoms are:

  • heavy legs
  • difficulty wearing shoes
  • pain in the legs or ankles.

Edema can manifest itself in different ways. Precisely these differences help to understand what the causes may be:

  • edema may appear on one leg or both;
  • the swelling is localized on a part of the leg (for example, the knee, the ankle or the instep) or on the whole;
  • the swelling is sudden and lasts for a short time (a few days) or is progressive and persists for a longer period of time (a few weeks).

Other disorders that frequently accompany edema are:

  • itch
  • feeling of heaviness
  • voltage
  • tingling
  • numbness
  • muscle cramps
  • night pains in the calves
  • hyperthermia (increase in body temperature)
  • temperature
  • difficulty walking.

Swollen legs: causes

Most common causes

The cause is often poor circulation , that is an alteration of the microcirculation of the lower limbs: this causes the blood to struggle to rise towards the heart and tends to stagnate in the legs, causing not only swelling but also bad tissue oxygenation , with fragility and dilation of veins and capillaries , water retention and cellulite .
Usually, when the feet and legs swell , it is a problem of water retention, overweight or venous insufficiency in the lower limbs.
With the heat , the blood vessels dilate to keep the body temperature low. The problem is that, with dilated vessels, the blood finds it hard to go back to the heart after reaching the lower limbs, where it therefore tends to stagnate.
Edema can also be the result of poor lymph circulation , a clear liquid that circulates in the body and is responsible for eliminating toxins and metabolic waste.
Some medicines such as cortisone can promote leg swelling. However, never stop a treatment that has been prescribed for you without talking to your doctor. Only he can determine if the medicine you are taking may be the cause of the swelling in the legs and whether it is necessary to stop the treatment or to replace the drug that causes the disorders.
Often the causes are benign and are due to high temperatures in summer to long periods spent standing or sitting.
It must also be said that women are more prone to this disorder because the swelling in the legs is related to the menstrual cycle . Not only that, it is also one of the frequent disorders in pregnancy.

Pregnancy and edema

The last months of pregnancy are marked by a rather frequent disorder: swollen and painful legs and ankles. In summer, the situation has a tendency to worsen.
The discomfort is unfortunately inevitable, given the increase in weight and hormonal changes , which lead to greater water retention and worsening circulation. However, you can put in place some good practices that allow you to stem or partially alleviate the feeling of swelling.
If you suffer from swollen legs during pregnancy , it is very important to follow a diet low in fat, sodium and sugar.
Instead, prefer a diet rich in fiber with fruit, vegetables and cereals to promote intestinal activity.
Yes also to folic acid (contained in all dark green vegetables, meat, pulses and nuts), iron and calcium. Important then drink plenty of water. To help circulation, eat berries or drink cranberry juice.
Summer is certainly difficult for a woman to face in the last months of pregnancy, but it also offers the opportunity to do physical activity at no cost.
A half-hour walk by the sea, taking advantage of the natural hydro-massage of the sea currents, is perfect for loosening retention and reactivating circulation . 
If you have the ok from your gynecologist, go swimming at the beach or in the pool . Swimming is also a pleasant and easy sport to practice, since in the water the weight of the belly will fade to give a little relief to the legs, but also to the back.

Swollen legs: which are the diseases that can cause them

The swelling in the legs can also be induced by numerous pathologies, first of all the venous insufficiency , characterized by a bad return of the blood from the peripheral zones to the heart due to a too important dilation of the blood vessels.
But swollen legs can also reveal kidney disease, a heart problem, liver failure or diabetes.
A swollen leg can also be the main symptom of a dreaded disease called phlebitis.
Phlebitis is an inflammation of the veins . When it occurs, sometimes a blood clot (thrombus) forms which blocks blood circulation (deep vein thrombosis). It mainly affects the lower limbs but can also affect other veins in the body.
Here is a list of possible pathologies that can signal swollen legs.
Cardiovascular problems : the heart pumps less blood well, especially when it is very hot and does not hydrate you well. This is why elderly people, who tend not to drink enough, also because they feel less thirsty, are at risk.
Pulmonary embolism .
Cardiac valvulopathy : heart valve malfunction.
Venous diseases : venous insufficiency, varicose veins.
Liver cirrhosis : alteration of liver function promotes water retention in the lower limbs.
Renal dysfunction: the kidneys are no longer able to do their job, water accumulates in the feet and legs.
Hypothyroidism : insufficient thyroid function.
Lymphatic edema : at the beginning the swelling decreases when the legs are raised above the heart. 
However, later, the edema remains from morning to evening. Often it affects only one leg.
Phlebitis : obstruction of the veins due to inflammation.
Erysipelas : skin infection.
Allergies .
Hormonal disorders (before the cycle, during menopause, pregnancy).
There are effective medicines to prevent edema if you suffer from a kidney, liver or heart problem. 

Swollen legs: remedies

Feeding and hydration

Nutrition plays an important role in fighting swollen legs .
First of all it is essential to keep your weight (or buy it back) and choose the right diet to deflate your legs. Avoid salty foods because too much salt increases water retention, so it makes you swell .
Bring food to the table that can improve microcirculation, promote diuresis and purify toxins.
So, green light to the draining and anti-inflammatory effect of fruit and vegetables, to conquer lighter legs at the table.
Their vitamins and antioxidants which they are rich in tone and protect the veins. 
Prefer seasonal fruits and vegetables, in particular cucumbers, celery, radicchio and salads in general, green beans and onion, all rich in water and, therefore, also with a diuretic and purifying action.

Vitamin C and anthocyanins to promote circulation

When the body does not take sufficient vitamin C, the immune system does not do its best, the capillaries tend to be more fragile and you are more exposed to the risk of edema and heaviness.
Dangers that you can avoid by eating foods rich in this vitamin, especially citrus fruits (lemon, orange, grapefruit), kiwi, strawberries, peppers.
The anthocyanins , powerful antioxidants of the flavonoid family, of which the red fruits are rich, such as blackberries, blueberries and currants, also keep the walls of the capillaries strong and encourage microcirculation .

Fiber-rich foods

Add fiber-rich foods to your diet because they accelerate intestinal transit and help you cleanse yourself, but also reduce water retention , and therefore swelling.
Fruits and vegetables supply so many fibers, which are essential for regulating bowel activities. Sometimes, in fact, the swelling in the legs can be linked to its malfunction, which can result in the absorption of substances that can give rise to inflammatory phenomena with edema .
Moreover, more fibers contribute to a lower absorption of fats and sugars and this helps to control blood sugar and cholesterol levels and to combat overweight. 
Also excellent whole grains , which thanks to their high satiety index also help you to control the portions and keep you in shape.
Yes therefore to rice, bread, whole-wheat pasta, barley, spelled and bulgur.

Drink so much to fight swelling

Drinking at least 2 liters of water (a part of which can consist of green tea or other unsweetened teas) helps you to get rid of the toxins that stagnate in the blood vessels.
Drinking so much also facilitates drainage and fights water retention.

Sports and exercises to reactivate the venous pump

Physical activity stimulates the muscles of the legs and improves venous return. If you don’t like sports, the best solution is walking.  
Try to walk at least half an hour a day and adopt an active lifestyle .
Remember to stretch your legs to activate blood circulation , then walk barefoot as soon as you can.

Effective sports to deflate the legs

  • walk 
  • bike
  • I swim
  • light gymnastics 
  • water aerobics.

Avoid all the sports that make you jump and the violent and prolonged exercises because they damage the blood circulation:

  • race
  • tennis
  • aerobics
  • volleyball 
  • squash.

Simple exercise for the veins to do at home

The quintessential exercise to do at home to reactivate the plantar pump.
Lying on your back, legs stretched out in the air, perform plantar flexions as if pushing on the accelerator, then bring the big toes towards you.  
Repetitions : 30 times.

Elderly swollen legs and pregnant women: exercise

If you have very swollen ankles after a day of work, are pregnant or are a senior, do this simple exercise every night to reactivate circulation.
Sit on a chair, your back straight, place a tennis ball under your foot and massage from the big toe to the heel for 3 or 4 minutes.
Elderly swollen legs and pregnant women: exercise
If you have very swollen ankles after a day of work, are pregnant or are a senior, do this simple exercise every night to reactivate circulation.
Sit on a chair, your back straight, place a tennis ball under your foot and massage from the big toe to the heel for 3 or 4 minutes.

Yoga: exercise for swollen legs

Do you suffer from heavy legs and when you are very tired does this feeling get worse? Do you feel swollen and fatigued?
Try yoga to regain wellness and lightness . Melarossa offers you a position that, if performed consistently, helps improve circulation , as well as being good for  relaxing at the end of the day  and releasing tension … not just your legs!
L a viparita karani (semi-upright) not only improves the blood circulation of the lower limbs but helps to tone the dorsal musculature  and  dissolve the tensions of the spine .
Some tips to  enhance the benefits of the upside down .
  • Concentrate : concentration is essential to perform the positions and techniques correctly. 
  • Free your mind from thoughts  and focus on the practice you are about to perform. In this way,  mind and body are able to dialogue  better and reach harmony more easily.
  • Learn to breathe :  breathing , in yoga, is essential to connect the body and mind. Thanks to yoga you will learn to better regulate your breathing and to control its rhythms.
  • Respect your limits :  yoga is a practice for everyone  but, especially if you are a beginner, do not be discouraged if you cannot keep your position for a long time. Do not force but proceed gradually to avoid injury. If you are still for a long time, consult a doctor to make sure that your joints, your muscles and your bones are in the right conditions to practice it.
  • Last recommendation : do not perform the half-upside if you  suffer from cervical , in  the menstrual period  or in  pregnancy .


To relieve swollen legs and feet, reduce water retention and improve circulation, self-massage is recommended. 
Sit comfortably and cross your legs in the “four” position (with the ankle of one leg resting on the knee of the other leg).
With circular movements, massage the big toe and the arch of the foot up to the heel.
Continue to the ankle and go up to the knee without forgetting the area of   the poplite (back of the knee). Change your leg and repeat until you feel beneficial.
You can use specific creams based on mint , aloe, menthol and eucalyptus but also simple moisturizing creams , as long as you have kept them in the fridge to cool them down.

Cold is good for swollen legs

The cold is a vasoconstrictor  that narrows blood vessels and prevents venous stagnation.
So  if it is very hot it can be useful to wet the towels with cold water  and make compresses on the legs.
You prefer the shower to the bathroom and, above all, give  relief to your legs with a nice jet of fresh water,  to do in the morning and in the evening always from the bottom upwards (that is starting from the calves and going up towards the knees).
To be avoided:  hair removal with hot wax, hot baths in the tub, resting on hot summer sand and too long exposure to the sun, because if the body temperature rises the vasodilation also increases.
In winter , on the other hand, he escapes from homes that  have underfloor heating  because the  heat dilates blood vessels  and favors  the venous engorgement  which is at the origin of the painful sensation of heavy legs.

Natural remedies to deflate legs and ankles: plants and herbal teas

Yes to plants that help the circulation and increase venous resistance such as those based on red vine , witch hazel and blueberry, to drink or to add to your foot bath (to do every night for 2 weeks).

DIY recipes: infusion to improve circulation

Here is an infusion to take care of your legs and feet in a natural way.
Infuse 1 tablespoon of leaves (you can choose between red vine, witch hazel or blueberry) for 1 cup.
Leave it for 10 minutes , then filter.
You can drink 2 or 3 cups a day for 15 days .

Deflated foot bath

Boil in 2 liters of water:
  • 50 g of yarrow leaves
  • 100 g of red vine leaves
  • 200 g of horse chestnut leaves.
  • Leave to cool.

Filter, add fresh water to fill the basin and place your feet and ankles to soak for half an hour.
To do every night in the summer months.
Tip : avoid DIY with plants. Contact a herbalist , who will be able to suggest any contraindications to you and the plants and flowers best suited to your problem.

When should I go to the doctor?

Swelling of the legs is a very common disorder but, if it lasts for a long time, it is best to ask your doctor for advice because it could be the sign of a possible pathology.
The visit becomes urgent when the edema appears suddenly and is accompanied by other symptoms such as:
  • pains
  • heat
  • temperature
  • chest pains
  • dyspnea (impaired breathing).

Who to contact

  • family doctor
  • cardiologist
  • phlebologist.

What the doctor does

Investigate above all about the medicines you are taking. Then check the state of your legs and look for signs of a malfunction of the kidneys, heart and liver.
If you have any doubts, he will ask you to do blood and urine tests and a Doppler ultrasound (EcoDoppler) for further investigation.

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