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Pharmacy and Medications

How dangerous is edema in the feet and legs?

04/11/2011

Question:

I have edema in both legs from my knees down to my feet. I am currently taking 80 mg of lasix 1 time daily and 500 mg 2 times daily of cipro. After 1 week, I have not experienced any relief from the pain or any any difference in the swelling. Is there a more aggressive way to fight this?

Answer:

Thank you for contacting NetWellness. Edema is the medical term for swelling caused by an abnormal buildup of fluid in the small spaces that surround the body tissues and organs. Edema most commonly occurs in the lower legs or hands, abdomen, and chest. A number of different conditions can cause edema including, chronic venous disease, pregnancy, heart failure, kidney disease, cirrhosis, blood clots, and infection. Advanced age, certain medications, prolonged standing, and long airplane flights or automobile rides can also lead to the development of edema. Diuretics (like Lasix) are commonly used to treat edema. Diuretics help remove extra fluid by causing the kidneys to excrete more water and sodium.

Some non-drug methods you can do at home to reduce your edema include:
 
* Elevate your legs above your heart while sitting or lying down.

* Exercise your legs to help pump the fluid from your legs back to your heart.

* Wear support stockings. These are sold at most drug and medical supply stores, and do not requirea  prescription.

* Follow a low-salt diet to help reduce fluid retention and swelling.
 
To help prevent edema:

* Avoid sitting or standing without moving for long periods of time.
 
* When flying, stretch your legs often and get up to walk when possible.

* When driving, stop to stretch and walk every hour or so.

* Avoid wearing restrictive clothing or garters around your thighs.

* Lose weight if you need to.

* If permitted by your doctor, exercise regularly

On this site, we try to answer general questions about edema but cannot diagnose or recommend treatment. You appear to have some very specific questions about your edema, which can only be answered properly by a physician who is familiar with your medical history, physical exam, and test results. Your questions about the risks, benefits, and alternatives for proposed treatments of this condition need to be directed to your treating physician(s). You should insist that they answer these questions in a way that you are able to understand before consenting to any treatment. If your physician is unable to help you understand these issues, you should get a second opinion.

Take care.

Submitted by Angela Passero, PharmD Candidate, The Ohio State University College of Pharmacy

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Response by:

Sarah Hudson-DiSalle, PharmD, RPh
Specialty Practice Pharmacist of Outpatient Pharmacy
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University