Edema is known to occur during and right after exercise especially in the feet, hands and lower legs. This is true during warm weather, pregnancy and after consumption of salty foods that increases water retention.
If there are no other symptoms particularly pain and if the swelling subsides within 24 hours, it is not an issue to worry about. There are a few measures that can help but if the edema persists, a doctor should be consulted right away for further assessment.
Swollen hands and fingers
It is still not fully understood why the hands becomes swollen during exercise, but it is believed that it is a side effect of how the body and the blood vessels react to the heightened demands of energy on the muscles during physical activity.
While exercising, the flow of blood increases along with strained effort of the heart and the lungs. The abrupt shift diminishes the blood flow to the hands which cools it down. The blood vessels in the hands overly react which opens wider and causes the fluids to build up. If exercise is continued, the muscles produce heat and blood is pushed closer to the skin surface to reduce the heat via perspiration and this can add up to the swelling of the hands.
Edema of the legs and feet
Engaging in long walks, sitting for extended periods, eating salty foods and warm weather can contribute to edema of the legs and feet. The swelling of the ankles and feet are free from pain and quite prevalent among the elderly or overweight individuals which affects the legs or calves. The exact cause for edema in the feet and legs is the same for swollen hands if exercise is the likely cause.
Self-care measures for edema
Edema is quite common among individuals who do not regularly exercise. The issue might eventually resolve on its own once walking becomes a routine. But until then and during warm weather, it is vital to remove rings before setting out.
The swelling of the hand that occurs while walking can be minimized by occasionally extending the arms and perform forward and backward arm circles as well as stretching the fingers and create a fist to promote circulation.
For ankle, leg and foot swelling, the individual should lie down upon arriving at home and raise the feet above the level of the heart for 30 minutes to promote the return of fluid to the heart with the help of gravity. In addition, lift the arms above the heart if the hands are swollen too.
When to seek medical care
Edema that triggers swollen legs might be an indication of various serious conditions including blood clot in the leg, kidney failure, leg infection, liver failure or preeclampsia in pregnant women.
Call for emergency assistance if edema is present along with shortness of breath and chest tightness or pressure. If fever is present along with minor swelling or if it becomes persistent and if the swollen leg or foot turns red or warm, a doctor should be consulted. Certain medications including calcium channel blockers for high blood pressure can lead to edema, thus a doctor should be informed whether the symptoms appear linked to a medication change.