Scientists Explain 6 Things That Cause Swollen Legs (And How to Fix It)

Swollen legs – otherwise known as edema or water retention – can be a cause for concern for many people. If you’re not sure what’s causing it, you have every reason to be concerned about what the underlying cause may be. The good news is that modern research has shown us exactly what causes this to happen. Armed with this information, you can ease the problem. Here is how science explains what causes swollen legs, and how to get rid of it!

“If people see any redness, blistering or swelling in the legs, especially if it is getting worse, they definitely need to see their doctor.” – Dr. Leslie Gilbert

Here Are 6 Underlying Causes of Swollen Legs and How to Fix Them

1. Lack of activity

Most swelling issues are caused by minor circulation problems that occur when you don’t move around enough, causing the lower extremities to retain water and experience fluid buildup. If you spend most of your day sitting in a chair in an office or tend to use most of your free time to sit in front of a TV, then your swelling legs could be your body’s way of saying, “We need to get moving!”

What’s the best way to fight this problem? It’s pretty simple – just get some more exercise! You don’t have to go all out at the gym or join a yoga or CrossFit class, though, unless you want to. Just set aside at least 30 minutes every day to do some light walking. You’d be surprised the wonders that just a little bit of physical activity can do for the body! Really exhausted and can’t stomach the idea of exercise right now? Try elevating your feet and legs above your heart level while you lie down to reduce swelling.

2. Blood clots

Blood clots in the legs are less serious than they sound in most cases – though they can be dangerous if left untreated – and are medically referred to as venous insufficiency. The chances of developing blood clots increase with age and often occur in women who have been pregnant.

What happens is that the vein walls inside the legs begin to lose their strength, causing one-way valves leading to the heart to face damage. This causes the veins in the legs to fill with blood, even more so if you’ve been standing for a long time.

Regularly keeping the legs elevated while you sit, lie down, and sleep can bring down swelling caused by this problem, and it can stop the situation from becoming exacerbated. You can also purchase support stockings, but make sure they aren’t tight enough to cause marks. If you really need them, you can also opt for prescription compression stockings; speak to a doctor or physician for options.

3. A bad diet

Malnutrition is one of the leading causes of seemingly random leg swelling, causing unwanted fluid retention in the extremities in severe cases. This can also happen if you are consuming too much salt with your food, especially since too much sodium causes the body to retain water.

The best way to solve edema caused by an unhealthy diet is to start eating a healthier one! If you think your diet is fine and aren’t sure what is causing the issue, try keeping a food diary. Also note the occurrence of your swelling so you can compare it to what you’re eating. You might find a surprising link between your swollen legs and a particular meal!

4. PMS or pregnancy

Many people who have periods may experience swelling and bloating around the week before their period, which is known as the PMS (or premenstrual syndrome) phase of the cycle. It’s not uncommon at all for those who are experiencing PMS to have swollen legs. This problem also occurs in those who are pregnant. Of course, PMS and pregnancy are two very different things, but we’re lumping them together here because they have a similar remedy!

A little-known positive remedy is the consumption of warm parsley tea. To make this refreshing beverage, chop the leaves and roots of parsley finely, then place about ¼ cup of these chopped components into an infusion basket. Submerge this inside a teapot with boiled water or pour hot, boiled water over the parsley. Allow to infuse for between five and seven minutes, then take out the infusion basket and strain the drink. You can add lemon, ginger, or even honey to taste.

5. Kidney or liver issues

Pitting edema is a kind of water retention that affects not just the legs, but the face and hands as well. This sort of edema is a result of either liver or kidney troubles. Symptoms are often worst when you wake up first thing in the morning. This is quite a serious and potentially dangerous issue. It can cause protein from the blood to leak into the urine and reduce the overall protein in your body, which then causes fluid buildup. If you suspect that your edema and swollen legs are caused by kidney or liver issues, you’ll want to see a doctor as soon as possible. This can cause further complications in the future if not properly looked at.

6. Heart issues

If you have been facing heart troubles or have experienced similar concerns, this can be the cause behind your swelling legs. This is because the heart might lack the strength necessary to pump the blood needed around your entire system, and your legs – being extremities – will suffer the most from this. The condition is called generalized edema and means your legs are experiencing water retention.

If you are experiencing shortness of breath when you’re lying down flat or after even minimal exercise, your heart may be suffering. In this case, once again, your best option will be to head to the doctor’s and have some tests done. Your doctor can suggest plenty of very effective and simple treatments to help.

Final thoughts

Swollen legs can seem scary, but not all cases of them represent a serious medical concern. In fact, most of the causes behind swollen legs can be easily treated on your own at home. That said, swollen legs can cause pain and discomfort that disrupts focus, positive thinking, and can even lead to other minor medical problems. Try to follow the advice above, and you should be able to get rid of your swelling issues quickly.

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