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Swollen legs or feet are caused by the accumulation of fluid in the tissues of the lower limbs, with poor return of blood and lymph back to the heart. Any form of swelling (also called oedema) results from some degree of lymphatic overload – either because the lymphatic system is not working properly or there is too much fluid for a normal lymphatic system to process. See also, What is Lymphoedema, Chronic oedema, Diagnosis of Lymphatic and Venous Diseases
Other causes may include:
It is important that a thorough medical assessment be completed to identify the correct cause of the swelling, to ensure that the most appropriate treatment plan can be implemented. In some cases, compression stockings may not be appropriate, or may need to be applied with caution in a modified way under the care of a qualified healthcare professional.
If swollen legs or feet are caused by lymphoedema or chronic venous disease (including varicose veins), compression stockings are commonly recommended as an effective treatment strategy. Compression stockings may also be recommended for the prevention or management of swollen legs or feet during pregnancy.
Compression stockings work to support the venous and lymphatic systems, restore limb shape and improve skin condition by facilitating the movement of blood and lymph back towards the heart. JOBST compression stockings are designed with graduated compression.
This means that the highest amount of pressure is exerted at the distal part of the stocking, with less compression gradually applied towards the top. In this way, compression stockings are effective at facilitating the movement of blood and lymph back towards the heart, reducing swelling and associated symptoms. See also, Compression Stockings for Lymphoedema.
Other advice for the management of swollen legs or feet may include:
Lymphoedema Framework. Best Practice for the Management of Lymphoedema.
International consensus. London: MEP Ltd, 2006.
Wounds UK Best Practice Statement (2015) Compression hosiery (2nd edn).
London: Wounds UK. Available to download from: www.wounds-uk.com
JOBST provides a comprehensive range of compression therapy products for the management of swollen legs or feet. See for details.