Swelling in a foot and leg is a buildup of fluid called peripheral edema. Many times this swelling does not produce pain but in some cases severe discomfort does occur. The condition can be mild and non-threatening or very serious depending on the cause and its successful treatment.
There are a multitude of possible causes of peripheral edema and its associated pain. These include trauma to the leg and foot, excessive time spent standing, varicose veins, menstruation, obesity, prolonged riding in a car or plane or aging. In some cases, a swollen foot or leg could be indicative of a serious health condition such as heart disease, liver failure or kidney failure. All of these problems can cause fluid to build up. There are also many more conditions that can result in edema, so it is extremely important to get a correct diagnosis. According to the New York Times Health section, even some medications such as certain antidepressants and hormone therapies and blood pressure drugs that are calcium channel blockers can cause leg and foot swelling.
You should see a physician if you have a swollen foot and leg especially if you do not know the reason for the swelling. The physician will likely ask you questions such as when the swelling began, at what times it is worse, if you have suffered any type of trauma and what other symptoms of illness you have. Your doctor will then likely perform some specific tests in an effort to determine the cause of your complaint. These tests may include blood chemistry analysis, an electrocardiogram (ECG), X-rays of your chest or leg and urinalysis.
Your doctor may prescribe diuretics to relieve the swelling and may also issue you painkillers. He is likely to recommend you take certain measures at home to help relieve your condition. It is important to reduce the swelling as soon as possible. Measures to accomplish this goal include avoiding sitting or standing for too long, elevating your legs above your heart when you are at rest, wearing compression garments such as certain stockings or socks and following a low salt diet. Losing weight may also make a significant difference in how much fluid your body retains. Leg massage may also help to relieve swelling and reduce pain.
Seek medical attention right away if you experience a fever, have heat or extreme redness in your affected limb, feel short of breath or notice a deficiency in urine output. Also, if the pain becomes very intense, you should immediately be seen by a doctor. A sudden increase swelling in your foot and leg should also be looked at by a physician as soon as possible. If your foot and leg edema is accompanied by chest pain you need immediate medical attention.
To prevent peripheral edema you need to eat a healthy, low-salt diet and exercise regularly. Drink copious amounts of water as the water will actually work to decrease swelling rather causing you to retain fluid. Use a leg wedge to keep your limb elevated while you sleep. Ask your doctor for additional preventative aids if you continue to experience bouts of leg and foot swelling.