Swelling in the feet is a very common symptom that many people experience throughout their lives. It can be caused by illness or even by sitting in one place for long periods of time. It can occur in just one or both legs. The swelling can be circumscribed, i.e. it can be limited to a certain area, or it can be swollen in the whole limb. What to do depends on the cause. In some cases, the disease needs to be treated, in others the symptom can only be eliminated.
Circumscribed leg swelling
In some diseases or conditions that cause swelling and usually affect only one limb, the swelling of the leg occurs in a well-defined area and can spread up and down from there:
- Sport injuries and accidents, which can be fractures, contusions, strains, sprains, torn ligaments, torn muscles. The moment and cause of the origin can be well determined. Swelling at the site of the injury, which may be partly haemorrhagic (in which case it becomes discoloured within a few days).
- inflammatory processes: arthritis, bursitis, dermatitis, etc. (fever and chills are signs of inflammation)
- insect bites, especially in the case of a hypersensitivity reaction
- swelling around the burn-scalding area
- in deep vein thrombosis, significant leg swelling may develop. Pain appears on legs that quickly tighten and the skin becomes purplish. A dangerous complication can be pulmonary embolism, marked by choking and chest pain.
- Post-thrombotic syndrome, a condition that recurs after deep vein thrombosis (2-3 months after thrombosis)
Swelling of one limb
Typically a disease affecting only one limb, swelling usually starts on the foot and ankle and progresses upwards, which may also indicate the degree of severity.
- secondary lymphoedema (blockage of lymphatic vessels due to accident, surgery, tumour).
- venous insufficiency (commonly known as varicose veins). Fluid stagnant in the tortuous veins leaks out of the blood vessels into the tissues and causes swelling, straining pain. Usually the two legs are affected in different proportions, with swelling being more severe on one side.
- Although not a disease, leg swelling can also develop during pregnancy. The growing foetus and uterus can suppress the pelvic veins and obstruct the blood flow back from the leg.
Swelling of both legs
In general, swelling of the legs affects both limbs, usually starting at the top of the foot and going upwards, which can also indicate the degree of severity.
- Sudden-onset renal failure, characterised by generalised malaise and minimal urine
- Chronic renal failure, characterised by loss of appetite, malaise, little or no urine
- Heart failure is characterised by chest pain and dyspnoea, which is exacerbated by minimal exertion. Not only the legs, but even the abdomen can become oedematous.
- Hormonal problems can result in increased water retention and swelling of the legs. Hormone therapy, such as taking contraceptives, may also lead to similar results.
- Patient side effects may include leg swelling when taking antidepressants, steroid and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, antihypertensives.
- Primary lymphoedema can usually affect both limbs and can cause very significant swelling.
- Long periods of sitting (e.g. long bus or plane journeys) or even working in a sitting-standing position can trigger leg swelling.
Treatment of leg swelling
Treatment depends on the underlying cause.
- Viscosity and leg swelling due to prolonged sitting or standing can be prevented by frequent short leg exercises (2-3 minutes per hour). Veinoplus vascular stimulators or pressure therapy devices are also excellent preventive devices.
- If swelling occurs due to a fracture, the fracture should be repaired and fixed. The swelling will go away on its own as it heals. Bone healing can be stimulated by pulsed ultrasound and magnetotherapy treatment.
- In case of injury, "RICE" treatment is recommended, i.e. Rest-Rest, Ice-Cooling, Compression-Compression (wall-bandaging) and Elevation-Recovery. The healing process can be stimulated by ultrasound and soft laser treatment.
- In the case of insect bites, cooling and avoiding an allergic reaction is important, otherwise the swelling will quickly disappear.
- In the case of burns and scalds, immediate cooling of the area is the most important. Burn dressings are best for this. If thrombosis is suspected, the patient should not stand up or walk around. He should be taken to hospital as soon as possible, and by ambulance! The disease requires intensive care.
- After a thrombosis, the patient must be prepared for the fact that his symptoms are persistent and require daily treatment. Veinoplus DVT, regular pressure therapy, helps to improve the condition. However, in the absence of treatment, the swelling will only increase.
- In the case of varicose veins, frequent changes in posture and compression massage can help.
- Treatment of renal failure and heart failure is a hospital task! The oedema will decrease if the kidney function improves or recovers, or if the heart function improves or strengthens.
- If you have a side effect from a drug, it is recommended to stop or change the suspected drug - always consult your doctor.
- Any form of lymphoedema can only be treated as a symptom, it is not a cure. A combination of manual and mechanical lymphatic massage can give good results.