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Swollen Legs, Edema: There Are Solutions

Pole legs, ankles that double in size: like every summer, edema ruins your life. Basically: a venous or lymphatic problem. Your program to deflate? Drainage, compression, proper nutrition and medication.

Before edema, there is first water retention. Our body is made up of 60% water: part is in the cells, the other is outside, mobile. So, a woman who weighs 55 kg has about 30 liters of water in her body, eight to ten liters of portable water.

From Water Retention To Venous Insufficiency

When water is insufficiently reabsorbed by the vessels, water retention occurs, followed by edema.

  • For a doctor, the sign of edema that never deceives is that of the bucket: when he presses on the leg, his fingerprint remains for a few seconds.
  • Another sign: more giant legs at the end of the day and when the weather is hot, “often due to venous insufficiency,” explains Dr. Bérangère Vassal-Hebrard, a vascular doctor at Toulouse University Hospital.

A Doppler ultrasound confirms the diagnosis and excludes another type of edema or a heart, kidney or liver problem. In the event of venous insufficiency, the examination shows that the veins are too dilated. “These reabsorb waterless wells,” says Dr. Philippe Blanchemaison, the vascular doctor in Paris.

With the venous network being overwhelmed, the lymphatics compensate. Up to a point: Edema is formed when the lymphatic vessels can no longer supply the blood vessels.

Rest assured, the edema is not severe. But it poisons life because it is chronic and requires permanent care. Whatever its cause, it always leads to the same therapeutic response: drainage (drugs or physiotherapy) and compression. Proper diet and gymnastic exercises are also important.

Diet Against Water Retention

Often, the eating habits of people with edema are poor. They consume too many refined products, saturated fat, and too little fresh food, fruits and vegetables,” says Dr. Donatella Negro, surgeon. However, there is an actual anti-water retention regime.

  • First point: eat enough protein every day. The correct dose ranges from 0.7 to 1 gram of protein per pound of weight. Do you weigh 55 kg? You need 38.5 to 55 g of protein (100 g of chicken gives you 25, compared to 20 for 100 g of cooked fish). Fluid retention is favored when venous blood does not contain enough protein. It would help if you ate enough, but not too much.
  • Second point: favor foods rich in vitamins E and P. Nuts, almonds, grape seeds, cold sea fish are rich in vitamin E, vascular protector. Vitamin P ( red fruits, blueberries, raspberries, currants, blackcurrants) is also recommended because it reduces capillary permeability.
  • Third point: we drink enough water, 1.5 to 2 liters per day. Contrary to popular belief, drinking water does not make edema worse.
  • We put on the menu draining foods, such as artichoke, broccoli, cucumber, melon, pineapple, in periods when the swelling is excruciating to bear.
  • Finally, avoid “sponge” foods that retain water. Casein, gluten and food additives (emollients, emulsifiers) must be limited. We also pay attention to salt: no more than 3 to 7 g per day.

Wear Compression Or Compression Stockings

In the case of “big legs,” the first medical advice is to wear compression stockings (which hold in place) or compression stockings (which compress the leg to bring up blood and lymph).

Choose them from a specialist pharmacy or from an orthopedist, who will accurately measure your legs.

Medicines: Opt For Phyto In Case Of Edema

When the edema is significant or permanent, the doctor has three types of medication, at least the most effective and at least the most harmful, as a source of undesirable side effects.

  • Drainers: made from red vine, horse chestnut, witch hazel, Ruscus, these oral venotonics (Daflon, Cyclo 3 Fort) influence venous drainage. Social Security does not reimburse them. The benefit is small, but the risk is zero. “They are all equivalent,” says Dr. Vassal-Hebrard.
  • Aquatics: stronger than drainers and less risky than diuretics, aquatics are also plant-based: failure or Pilosella, for example. “To be preferred as a course of one to two months as soon as the edema appears,” advises Dr. Blanchemaison.
  • Diuretics: very effective (they allow you to eliminate more water and salt); however, they also present more risks. These drugs induce high blood pressure, damage the kidneys and can even lead to cardiac arrest.

Lymphatic Drainage: To Do With A Physiotherapist

The lymphatic drainage manual is a good treatment of edema when combined with other therapies. It must be prescribed by a doctor and performed by a physiotherapist. Medicare reimburses if the indication “venous insufficiency of the lower limbs with articular repercussions and trophic disorders” is well placed on the prescription. A session costs between 35 and 50 € in a medical setting (up to 90 euros not reimbursed in an aesthetic environment, institutes).

“By light pressure, the drainage stimulates the lymph nodes located under the collarbones, at the level of the belly, at the crease of the groin and behind the knees,” explains Chantal Chemla, physiotherapist. Movements are always upward, and good drainage lasts at least 45 minutes.

“At the rate of two sessions per week, the drainage does a lot of good. But, depending on the pathologies, the edema can come back when you stop,” admits the therapist. Drainage relieves heaviness and pain, but it does little to thin the legs. Women put on their shoes more quickly after the session: this is a sign that their feet and ankles have deflated.

In addition, hands are preferred over machines because they adapt better to tissue engorgement. But then, is lymphatic drainage offered in beauty salons legal? Yes, provided that the beautician’s touch: they are not allowed to touch the lymph nodes.

To do at home: you can massage your foot or leg yourself with a refreshing gel or a mixture of cypress vegetable oil and essential oil.


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