There are many unpleasant symptoms that accompany neuropathy — aside from the notorious pins and needles sensations.
One of those pesky symptoms is leg swelling. With leg swelling, you could expect to experience enlargement of the legs caused by excess fluid that has collected in the lower extremities.
Leg swelling may occur in one leg (unilateral) or in both legs (bilateral).
Symptoms of leg swelling may include:
- moderate or severe leg swelling in one or both legs
- pitting edema: pressure applied to the skin with a finger leaves a pit in the skin
- pants acutely become too tight
- shoes acutely become too tight
- substantial unintentional weight gain
How does neuropathy cause this fluid retention?
One uncommon reason for this fluid retention is hypothyroidism, which leads to pressure on the nerves; in turn, this leads to the retainment of fluid. Additionally, the nerves in your extremities often connect to your brain. If they are extensively damaged, they may not give the signal to stop storing fluid as protection.
How does the doctor treat leg swelling?
The treatment for leg swelling depends on the underlying cause.
Treatment varies from elastic support hose, leg elevation, a low salt diet, weight loss, and/or diuretics.
Additional treatment for leg swelling may include warm compresses, antibiotics, and blood thinners. Below, we cover the low salt diet — perhaps the best place to start when countering swollen lower extremities.
The Low Salt Diet
Individuals with leg swelling have shown a substantial improvement when following a low salt diet.
A low salt diet typically contains less than 1,500 mg of salt per day; this is less than a total of one teaspoon per day.
Here are some great beginner tips on how to reduce your sodium consumption:
- avoid cooking with salt
- avoid fast food
- avoid salty foods, such as pickles, cured meats, salty snacks, and canned soup
- avoid seasonings that contain sodium
- do not add salt to your food after it is prepared
- read food labels and buy foods that are low in salt
- when eating out, ask that your food is prepared without added salt
Additional Benefits of a Low Salt Diet
Research has shown that low salt diets have substantial benefits that extend far beyond fluid retention:
- increased salt consumption induces water conservation and decreases fluid intake (1)
- decreased risk of developing heart conditions (2)
- decreased risk of stroke (2)
Leg Swelling Warning Signs
Some symptoms could signify much more sinister diseases and ailments at hand. Therefore, you should notify your doctor if you have a leg swelling and any of the following symptoms:
- Chest pain
- Difficulty breathing
- Worsening cough
- Coughing up blood
- Worsening leg swelling
- Red streaks in the skin
- Skin redness and swelling
- Decreasing urine output
- Facial swelling
- Hand swelling
Although leg swelling is not particularly dangerous alone, it is often the disguise of much more sinister diseases such as:
- pulmonary edema (fluid in the lungs)
- CHF (congestive heart failure)
- venous insufficiency
- kidney disease
- liver disease
- other severe lung conditions
If you do present with fluid retention in the lower extremities, it is vital that you consult your doctor.
The Bottom Line
- Fluid retention is common in neuropathy patients, however, it can also be caused by an underlying, more serious disease.
- The best place to start naturally treating swollen legs is to gradually decrease your salt intake.
- Taking care of your feet is important, especially when they are swollen.
- Low salt diets have been known to decrease the risks of heart failure and stroke.
What do you think about low salt diets? Do you have experiences with swollen legs due to neuropathy? What did your doctor recommend? Let me know in the comment section below.
If you are in need of additional information? Read some of my other blog content here:
- 10 Point Checklist For People With Neuropathy
- Symptom Care Guide
- Tricks to Improve Vitamin B12 Absorption
As always, thank you for taking the time to read my article!