Edema, or fluid retention in the legs, may be caused by standing or sitting for long periods of time, pregnancy, menstruation, a diet high in salt and aging. In rare cases, edema may be the result of a more serious condition, such as a blood clot or obstruction of the lymph nodes. Although it is possible to reduce your symptoms of edema at home, consult a doctor to rule out any serious medical complications.
When fluid builds up in your legs, simple home remedies may reduce the pain and swelling. If your edema is caused by prolonged standing or sitting, taking frequent breaks from your routine to get your circulation flowing and drain the fluid. Propping your legs up on a pillow so they are above the level of your heart may help drain the fluid and reduce the pain and swelling associated with edema. Reducing salt from your diet also may help drain fluid from the legs. When you eat too much salt, the body may conserve fluid to balance out the high sodium levels.
In some cases, water retention in the legs may be painful. Taking one dose of over-the-counter acetaminophen or ibuprofen as directed on the label's instructions may help reduce the pain associated with edema. Support stockings, available at drugstores and medical supply stores, are tight-fitting stockings that apply pressure to the legs, allowing the fluid to drain to other parts of the body. Your doctor may recommend support stockings if home remedies are not effective.
Your doctor also may recommend contrast hydrotherapy if other over-the-counter and home remedies are not effective. This involves alternately applying hot and cold compresses to your legs -- three minutes with hot compresses, then one minute with cold compresses. He may instruct you to do this procedure two to three times every day. He also may recommend dry skin brushing, or brushing the skin with a soft-bristled brush starting at the feet and working up the legs, brushing in the direction toward the ceiling.
Although alternative remedies are not scientifically or medically proven to work, they may be worth a shot if your doctor approves. Some individuals find acupuncture, massage and herbal remedies such as dandelion, bilberry and grape seed extract supplements helpful in reducing edema. Herbal supplements may interact with prescription medications. Consult your doctor before trying any herbal remedy to treat edema, especially if you take any additional medication.