Water retention in legs and feet is known as peripheral edema. Edema means the tissues swell due to abnormal accumulation of fluids in the body and it usually affects lower extremities or legs, especially feet, ankles and calves.
Causes of water retention in legs
There are several possible reasons why a person develops water retention or edema in legs. One of the common causes is standing or sitting with the legs hanging for prolonged periods of time. This particularly affects people who spend a lot of time in these positions due to the nature of their job.
Warm or hot weather often causes water retention in legs because the entire body becomes somewhat lethargic and less efficient in elimination of excess fluids.
The problems with veins, like varicose veins, are caused by weakened valves, especially in legs, and they often lead to swelling and water retention.
Burn injuries, including sunburns, cause the skin to retain moisture and lead to swelling as well.
Water retention in legs is a very common side effect of pregnancy. It occurs because the uterus presses against the main blood vessel that brings the blood from the legs to the heart. Hormonal changes and a condition called pre-eclampsia are other causes of water retention in pregnancy.
Edema in legs can result from the use of certain medications, from high sodium diet, heart problems, lung disorders, certain tumors, hypothyroidism and some types of arthritis.
Treatment for water retention in legs
The treatment for water retention in legs should focus on the underlying cause of it. Once the underlying condition is solved, the water retention, as a symptom, will go away.
Meanwhile, it can help to make certain changes in the lifestyle, for example to start eating low-sodium foods and to increase the intake of fluids, especially water. It is also important to have a balanced diet, to avoid smoking and alcohol consumption and to engage in moderate exercise on daily basis.
Lying down with legs propped on some cushions, so the feet are above the level of the heart, is an efficient way to reduce the swelling. Wearing comfortable, supporting but not too tight clothes and footwear also helps.
Some have found that the application of warm mustard oil on the swollen legs and feet can bring great relief for water retention. Another option is to soak some mustard seeds in water and to leave them overnight. The water should then be applied to the affected parts. Apple cider vinegar can also be used, especially for massaging.