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Swelling in the Legs Could Have a Wide Variety of Causes, Treatment March 17, 2008

FOR MORE INFORMATION, contact Rebecca Sylvester at 706/828-2394.

Swelling in the Legs Could Have a Wide Variety of Causes, Treatment

AUGUSTA, Ga. - March 18, 2008 - Because the causes of swelling in the lower extremities vary so widely and some could be serious, this condition should be addressed with your health care provider as soon as possible, advised University Hospital Nurse Practitioner Victoria Burt. Ms. Burt, an ongoing guest on the NBC Augusta Healthy U segment, recently addressed this viewer's question, "What causes swelling in the ankles and feet?"

An abnormal buildup of fluid in the ankles, feet and legs, called peripheral edema, is often painless and worsened by the effects of gravity, Ms. Burt said.
Edema of any origin can be worsened by the following:

  • Standing for an extended period of time.
  • Being overweight.
  • Age.
  • Menstrual periods.
  • Pregnancy.
  • Injury.

  "While often harmless, swelling could be an indicator of a serious condition," Ms. Burt warned.
Swelling in one leg could mean:

  • Blood clot.
  • Leg infection.
  • Problems with the veins. (Venous insufficiency means the veins in your legs are unable to pump blood back to the heart.)

Swelling in both legs could mean:

  • Heart failure.
  • Kidney malfunction.
  • Liver malfunction.

Swelling is linked to certain medications, to include the following:

  • Hormones (birth control pills, estrogen hormone replacement therapy or testosterone).
  • Steroids.
  • Antidepressants.
  • Some blood pressure medications.

General tips to reduce or prevent swelling include:

  • Reduce salt intake. (Salt makes the body retain fluid and the extra fluid can cause swelling as well as weight gain, elevated blood pressure and even trouble breathing.)
  • Elevate the legs up when sitting. (It eliminates the affects of gravity.)
  • Wear support stockings. (They provide a graduated compression that helps blood flow from the lower leg toward the heart.)
  • Avoid crossing the legs. (This slows the upward flow of blood back to the heart.)
  • Exercise, if approved by your health care adviser. (It will keep your weight down and improve your muscle tone and circulation.)

For more information or help finding a physician, call ASK-A-NURSE at 706/737-8423.

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