The Importance of Drinking Water to Treat Swollen Legs and Feet

Swelling of the feet and ankles is medically known as edema. It can affect any part of the body though it is most commonly seen in the legs, feet, ankles, arms and hands. Edema may be caused by certain medical conditions (liver disease, kidney disease, heart failure or pregnancy) or due to certain medications. Individuals suffering from venous insufficiency may also experience edema.

“Usually, individuals who suffer from heaviness and leg swelling make the mistake of not drinking enough water – says Dr. Marco Setti, Head of Vascular Surgery at Humanitas Gavazzeni. Instead, it is necessary to introduce fluids into the body by eating lots of vegetables and fruits as well as drinking natural water. It is safe to assume from medical assistance that phlebotonic medications can help improve blood circulation. The special creams that contain phlebotonics and heparinoids reduce the “heat” that is manifested in the calves and can help make a difference even if it is only a minimal difference.”

How does edema occur? 

Edema occurs when water leaks from the small blood vessels in the body. The kidneys start to react by retaining more sodium and water. The fluid then builds up in surrounding tissues, leading to swelling. In such cases, it is necessary to resort to lower sodium foods and beverages.

Mild cases of edema may result from the following:

  • Salty foods
  • Pregnancy
  • Premenstrual signs and symptoms
  • Prolonged sitting

Certain medications that may cause edema include:

  • Steroids
  • Estrogens
  • High blood pressure medications
  • Diabetes medications

More severe conditions that may cause edema include:

  • Kidney damage
  • Kidney disease
  • Liver cirrhosis
  • Heart failure

Helpful tips to relieve pain in the legs

“A few helpful tips on relieving pain when you suffer from swollen feet and legs is to exercise, keep active and drink plenty of water. At night, you should also keep your legs raised by resting them on a soft pillow – adds Dr. Setti. Unfortunately, for women, hormonal issues related to pregnancy, the use of birth control pills or other similar problems make them more susceptible to venous insufficiency than men. Edema affects as many as 7 out of 10 women.”

Treatment typically depends on taking care of the underlying cause by:

  • Limiting sodium intake (preventing the body from retaining excess water)
  • Eating healthy foods
  • Drinking plenty of fluids (1.5-2 liters of water a day)
  • Avoiding a sedentary lifestyle
  • Moving the ankles more often
  • “When you take long journeys via plane, car or train, your limbs are forced into small spaces or crouched positions. In such cases, it is recommended to wear relaxation stockings throughout the duration of the trip in order to improve venous circulation. For individuals with episodes of thrombus phlebitis, it is advised to consult with a specialist. Sun exposure is permitted in such cases but with moderation. In cases of phlebitis inflammation, sun exposure is absolutely prohibited. Finally, it is advised to walk along the water or swim while you are at sea. Such activities produce a natural and healthy hydro massage on the body” – concludes Dr. Setti.


Humanitas is a highly specialized Hospital, Research and Teaching Center. Built around centers for the prevention and treatment of cancer, cardiovascular, neurological and orthopedic disease – together with an Ophthalmic Center and a Fertility Center – Humanitas also operates a highly specialised Emergency Department.