Water in the legs – causes, treatment

Water in the legs

Water retention in the legs should not be underestimated. Because it represents a serious health problem due to the penetration of water into the tissue.

What is water in the legs?

If a patient has water in his legs, then this is called a so-called edema. This is manifested in most cases by swelling of the leg tissue.

Edema usually occurs only briefly and locally. They can be diagnosed by applying pressure to the affected areas. If the dent remains for a certain period of time even after the pressure has stopped, this indicates edema.


Water in the legs can have many different causes. For example, water retention can be a symptom of a serious illness, such as heart or kidney disease.

Here it is necessary to distinguish whether the swelling occurs on one or both legs. In the case of the legs, the causes are venous insufficiencylymphedemalack of blood flow, infections or tumors.

In the case of swelling on both legs, many diseases can be the causes: lack of exercise, lipoedema, disorders of heart and kidney function, diseases of the liver, protein deficiency edemadiabetes or eating disorders can be the causes. But also allergies, poisoning, hormonal disorders, surgical consequences and certain medications can trigger such swelling of the legs.

Diseases with this symptom

Diagnosis & course

For this reason, a comprehensive health check should be carried out with water in the legs. In any case, a healthy lifestyle is important. So anyone who does something about obesity and moves regularly has already done a lot for prevention. Once it has come to this, then a doctor should be consulted quickly, so that the causes can be clarified.

The doctor will first take a close look at the feet and legs and then carry out the appropriate therapy. If the accumulation of water has existed for a very long time, functional disorders of the legs are possible. If the water retention leads to a very heavy burden on the person concerned, the development of depressive symptoms is also possible.

As part of the diagnosis, the special medical history of the person concerned is also determined. After that, a detailed examination is carried out to find out the cause of the underlying disease. After that, the method of treatment can be decided.


Water in the legs is caused by various causes, which can carry different complications. Typically, edema occurs more frequently in renal insufficiency (renal insufficiency). In addition, the kidney can no longer remove enough toxins from the body, so that poisoning can occur (uremia). This can lead to a uremic coma.

Furthermore, not enough acid is excreted, so that the blood acidifies. As a result, the body has less free calcium available, so the body suffers much more cramps. In the worst cases, the affected person has to undergo dialysis or even a kidney transplant, which severely limits the quality of life.

Liver weakness (hepatic insufficiency) also leads to increased water retention in the legs. The liver can go into cirrhosis. The synthesis performance of the liver is severely disadvantaged. It no longer produces enough proteins, which on the one hand prolongs the bleeding time or promotes the development of edema.

In addition, more water can accumulate in the abdomen, an ascites develops. Due to the scarring of the liver, the blood flow is also diverted, more blood reaches the spleen, where it is increasingly broken down. Anemia and painful enlargement of the spleen (splenomegaly) are the result. In the worst case, cirrhosis of the liver can turn into liver cancer (liver carcinoma).

When to go to the doctor?

Water retention in the legs can have many causes: long standing, obesity, genetic predisposition, medications such as antihypertensive drugs, heat or too much fluid intake. But there can also be serious health problems behind the complaints.

A physician should be consulted if measures for self-help do not work in the long run. If it is not enough to regularly put your legs up, apply cooling creams such as vine leaf extract or essential oils such as eucalyptus and Japanese mint oil, reduce excess weight and exercise regularly, going to the doctor is urgently necessary. Water retention in the legs should not be trivialized, because vein damage can occur over time. In addition, it may be a symptom of another disease.

If all self-help measures fail, there may be serious medical causes. Behind water in the legs, for example, kidney disease or damaged lymph. The first step should always be to go to the general practitioner, who may already be able to remedy the situation, for example by having a blood count done or prescribing drugs that flush excess water out of the body. If the suspicion is confirmed that another disease is present, the family doctor can arrange referrals to special specialists who get to the bottom of the causes. Symptomatic treatment is then not sufficient.

Treatment & Therapy

Of course, the treatment must be based on the underlying disease. A successful treatment is therefore the best and most effective remedy for the swollen feet. However, a healthy lifestyle is also very important. Above all, risk factors must be identified and eliminated.

These include, for example, alcohol and nicotine, as these substances can damage the blood vessels. Regular physical exercise is also important. Here everyone should find the sport that gives them fun and joy. However, consultation with the attending physician is mandatory. Those who suffer from heart failure may choose a different sport than someone with varicose veins. There are a variety of sports that can be perfectly integrated into everyday life; for example, swimming, but also jogging and cycling.

Above all, swimming has the advantage that it also has a very positive effect on the leg muscles. Since most swimming pools are also open in the evening, this sport can be easily integrated into everyday life. But also cycling and jogging are highly recommended. Those who cycle to work every day have already done a lot for their fitness. Depending on requirements, further measures may also be required. So help with long sitting small exercises for in between. Because even long sitting can cause the blood to sag into the legs and cause corresponding swelling.

Especially with longer flights, this is often a big problem. This can be countered by using compression stockings and occasional changes in leg posture. In any case, some relaxation phases should be built into everyday life. Psychological stress and mental pressure can also intensify existing suffering and thus also represent significant risk factors.

Outlook & Forecast

At first glance, water in the legs is not a clinical picture, which must be examined or treated by a doctor. Since water in the legs is merely a symptom of a particular underlying disease, an accurate outlook and prognosis is very difficult to predict. Many affected people who suffer from water in their legs have been in the hot sun for a longer period of time. If a permanent sitting position is added, water can form very quickly in the legs. However, the accumulation of water in the legs should disappear completely after several hours.

In some cases, however, there is also an underlying disease, so a doctor should be consulted in case of water retention. In such a case, the legs not only become thicker, but there is also permanent pain in the legs. If, for example, there is a venous disease, then the water no longer flows back from the legs. It also comes to an accumulation of blood in the legs, so that it may also lead to circulatory problems.

If you want to counteract this disease quickly and effectively, you should consult a doctor immediately. Only with appropriate medication can an accumulation of water in the legs be combated quickly and effectively.


Of course, good prevention is best. Treatment measures already mentioned above also apply to prevention. Those who regularly exercise and otherwise show a healthy lifestyle have already done a lot for their health.

Because obesity, smoking and alcohol are also one of the biggest risk factors for swelling in the legs. A regular health check with the family doctor is particularly useful from the age of 35.

What you can do yourself

Water retention in the legs can be avoided with some aids. Those affected should a lot – drinking 2-3 liters of water a day promotes the removal of waste products and lymphatic fluids. Contrast showers also help, because alternating hot and cold water pours is ideally suited to detoxify the legs. Those affected begin with a two-minute shower of the legs and then switch to cold. The procedure should be carried out several times – about three to four times.

Very good against water in the legs helps to put it up. As often as possible, the legs should be raised – a relief of the legs is noticeable relatively quickly. Wearing is advisable for sufferers who have to sit a lot. An orthopaedic technician makes appropriate stockings. In many cases, the health insurance covers the costs.

Supportively, the legs should be rubbed regularly with detoxifying ointments. A pharmacist advises on which creams are suitable. The effect can be enhanced by wrapping the legs with conventional cling film and storing high overnight. Lymphatic drainage is also purifying. This special can be learned and applied to yourself. Medication for drainage of the legs should be taken only in consultation with the doctor.

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Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.