Inflammation, Joint disorders | February 18, 2018 | Author: Naturopath
Ever seen your ankles puff up like balloons? Fluid can accumulate beneath the skin, causing swelling and discomfort in the legs, ankles and feet. When this happens after no injury has occurred, it may be a condition is called “oedema”. Oedema frequently affects older people and pregnant women, but it can happen to anyone and may be a symptom of an underlying health problem.
Oedema is characterised by swelling in the limbs (usually legs and feet), with shiny skin that looks “stretched” over the swollen areas. It's important to see a doctor to confirm the diagnosis and rule out any associated conditions that require treatment.
There are two major categories of oedema: pitting and non-pitting. They have different causes and need to be treated entirely differently.
The most common type of oedema is pitting oedema, caused by fluid accumulation in the cutaneous area of the skin. To confirm that you have pitting oedema, look for an indentation after you press your finger against the swollen tissue for 15 seconds. If the flesh doesn't “bounce back” immediately, you may have pitting oedema. This type of oedema responds well to anything that helps move fluid out of the body, such as diuretics, movement, and a low sodium diet.
If there is no indentation after you have pressed your finger against the swollen tissue, you may have non-pitting oedema. This is sometimes a symptom of damage to the lymph system and may respond to remedies that move lymphatic fluid, or it may be due to a serious infection. Speak to your doctor as soon as possible if you think you may have non-pitting oedema.
Pitting oedema of the legs, ankles and feet occurs when fluid escapes from the capillaries and is pushed into the surrounding tissue. It struggles to flow back into the circulation so it “pools” in the interstitial spaces in tissue and causes swelling. Oedema occurs when there is high pressure within the capillaries and the walls of the vessels are weakened:
Medications, hormonal changes and surgeries can contribute to oedema of the legs and feet.
Speak to your doctor if you are pregnant as oedema may be caused by a serious condition called preeclampsia.
NOTE: Deep vein thrombosis is a dangerous condition that can lead to embolism and stroke, and is often brought on by long periods of standing or sitting, such as taking a long-haul flight. It usually presents with oedema in just one leg, accompanied with pain. Seek medical attention immediately if you have oedema in one leg.
Water always flows downhill – so prop your feet up and allow gravity to do the work.
Resting with your legs elevated above the body allows the accumulated body fluids to circulate out of the interstitial spaces and towards the eliminatory channels.
Spend at least 10 – 20 minutes with your feet and legs above the level of your heart to move fluid out of your swollen limbs .
When you're not resting, move around as much as possible. Keep your heart rate up and avoid standing or even sitting for extended periods of time. The more the heart pumps, the more blood and lymph will move through the limbs and carry the excess liquid out of the tissue and back into the circulation to be excreted .
Applying essential oils topically to your swollen feet, legs and ankles can promote circulation to (and away from) the area, reducing swelling and alleviate soreness. Mix 2 – 3 drops of one or more of these essential oils with a carrier oil (e.g. sweet almond oil or jojoba oil) and massage into the swollen tissue to move fluids and reduce inflammation    :
NOTE: Speak to a qualified aromatherapist before using essential oils during pregnancy.
Bilberry is one of the richest sources of anthocyanins – potent antioxidants that have been shown to strengthen blood vessels and prevent capillary permeability . Eating bilberries every day (if you can find 'em!) or regularly taking a concentrated dose of a bilberry supplement may help to reduce severity and frequency of swollen legs. Studies have confirmed that it is safe to take during pregnancy .
The blood requires a balance of electrolyte minerals in order to keep water in circulation and out of the interstitial spaces where it causes oedema. Eating a low sodium diet could help to reduce how often you experience peripheral oedema, and staying hydrated helps to excrete excess salt out of the body and keeps the circulation moving.
Herbal or food-derived diuretics can help to move any extra salt out of the body, too. These herbs can be consumed as a food, as a tea, or in concentrated supplement forms to reduce sodium and improve oedema:
Speak to a qualified naturopath or herbalist for personalised advice on the most appropriate herbal treatments for your condition.
Traumeel is a topical ointment made of diluted minerals and herbs that is indicated for all kinds of swelling, inflammation and musculoskeletal pain. Studies have shown that it is effective against oedema and can speed up healing processes, and can exert a pain relieving effect as powerfully as over-the-counter pain killers .
Compressing the tissue of the legs, feet and ankles creates resistance against fluid that might otherwise pool out of the circulation and into the interstitial spaces, causing oedema.
Studies have shown that people with a history of oedema or who are at risk of developing oedema can reduce the severity of swelling by up to 70% by wearing compression socks or stockings, particularly when sedentary .
Sure, they're not fashionable but they could save you from some discomfort.
If you're at risk of oedema or have a history of swollen feet and legs, wear compression stockings during long periods of inactivity and especially on long-haul flights of 7 hours or more. Get up at least once every hour, and exercise your feet and legs while sitting. This will help to “pump” fluid back up towards the heart .
Smoking is a major cause of blood vessel damage and congestive heart failure. Speak to a qualified naturopath and your doctor for advice on how to make it easier to quit cigarettes.
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