Edema (or swelling) of the lower limbs is common in older adults. The most common cause (about 70%) of leg edema is due to Chronic Venous Insufficiency (CVI). Other serious causes of edema include congestive heart failure, kidney disease, and liver disease.
Legs, ankles, and feet swell when excess fluid is pulled down by gravity and builds up in the lower body. This is called edema and it’s common in older adults and usually happens on both sides of the body. It can be caused by a variety of health conditions including heart failure, kidney disease, gout, and arthritis.
The most probable cause of bilateral edema in older patients is chronic venous insufficiency. Heart failure is also a common cause. Other systemic causes such as renal disease or liver disease are much rarer.
Some tips that may help reduce swelling:
Lifestyle and home remedies
The best weapon in the fight against swollen legs is a simple one: walking. Getting your legs moving means circulation is improved which will sweep up that collected fluid and get it shifted.
If left untreated, edema can lead to increasingly painful swelling, stiffness, difficulty walking, stretched or itchy skin, skin ulcers, scarring, and decreased blood circulation.
Medications that may cause the feet to swell include:
Pedal edema (foot and ankle swelling) is one of the cardinal signs of congestive heart failure (HF) but can also be due to other systemic or local conditions, including chronic kidney disease, liver disease, thyroid disorders, venous insufficiency, and venous thrombosis1.
Drink 8 to 10 glasses of water per day Though it might seem counterintuitive, getting enough fluids actually helps reduce swelling. When your body isn’t hydrated enough, it holds onto the fluid it does have. This contributes to swelling.
Avoid refined foods, such as white breads, pastas, and sugar. Eat fewer red meats and more lean meats, cold-water fish, tofu (soy, if no allergy), or beans for protein. Use healthy cooking oils, such as olive oil.
Most of the time, the edema is not a serious illness, but it may be a sign for one. Here are some examples: Venous insufficiency can cause edema in the feet and ankles, because the veins are having trouble transporting enough blood all the way to the feet and back to the heart.
Several diseases and conditions may cause edema, including:
Because edema is multifactorial (many possible causes), several doctors will likely be involved in your care. This includes your primary care physician (PCP) or internist, a nephrologist (kidney specialist), cardiologist (heart specialist), or gastroenterologist (digestive tract or liver specialist).
The swelling is obvious, and the skin may look shiny and stretched. Sometimes, swelling is so extreme that a person has difficulty moving. Swelling can become so severe that fluid will leak out directly from the skin. This is known as weeping edema.
Many medicines can cause edema, including: