Edema, or swelling, is a common health problem, and many people who experience edema wear compression stockings or compression support hose. If your doctor has told you that you need to wear compression stockings because of your edema, keep reading for more information.
What Is Edema?
Edema is when tissues of the body get puffy and swollen with fluid. In most cases, people with edema have it in the ankles, knees, and legs, but a person can also have edema of the face and hands.
Edema is common during pregnancy and in older adults, but a person of any age can develop edema. The fluid buildup of edema is caused by a variety of factors. Standing or sitting too long can cause fluid to build in your legs and ankles, especially if you’re traveling. Hot weather can also contribute to fluid buildup in the body, as can eating a lot of salty (sodium-filled) foods. Edema can also be a side effect of taking certain medicines, such as oral diabetes medicines, high blood pressure medicines, hormonal medications, and the pain reliever ibuprofen.
If you have edema, your skin might seem puffy right under the skin or the skin might seem shiny or stretched. Swelling in the abdomen is another sign of edema.
Health Problems That Cause Edema
Certain health conditions make it more likely that you’ll experience the swelling of edema. They include:
- Chronic vein disease, such as blood clots/deep vein thrombosis
- Kidney disease
- Heart failure
10 Ways to Reduce Edema Swelling
1. Wear compression stockings for edema. These edema stockings can be purchased at your local drugstore. Walmart compression stockings are also available. If you have severe edema or leg ulcers, your doctor may need to prescribe special compression stockings that offer stronger vein support. Learn about how to measure yourself for compression stockings and where to buy compression stockings here.
2. Ask your doctor about a diuretic, a medication that helps the body release extra fluid and sodium. You shouldn’t take this medicine without the help of a doctor, because you can lose too much fluid if you’re not careful.
3. Cut back on the salt in your diet, which can help reduce swelling. Eat mostly unprocessed, fresh proteins, vegetables, and fruits.
4. Elevate your legs above your heart for 30 minutes 3-4x daily. This can help reduce lymphedema and swelling.
5. Wear loose clothing that is comfortable. Edema can happen if your belt, pants, or clothes are too tight.
6. Avoid crossing your legs when sitting.
7. When you’re sitting for long periods of time, flex and bend your ankles every so often.
8. On a long flight, stand up and walk around every hour.
9. Massage the swollen area with firm pressure (but not too painful).
10. Do regular, gentle exercise such as swimming or walking if you can. Exercise helps regulate fluid levels and reduces edema.