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Ask the doctor: The calves of my legs swell up every day

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You can do simple exercises at your desk to ease the swelling

You can do simple exercises at your desk to ease the swelling

You can do simple exercises at your desk to ease the swelling

Q The calves of my legs swell up during the day. I have an office job and spend most of the day sitting down. I don't eat salty foods excessively and exercise three to four times a week. I also commute to work - so more sitting. They depuff mostly after a night's sleep. Is it anything to be alarmed by and is there anything I can do to help?

A In relation to lower-limb swelling my first question is always: "Is the swelling present first thing in the morning?'' If the answer is no, then it's most likely a physiological variant of normal. You feel your legs are almost back to normal in the morning time, which is reassuring. My second question: ''Is there a family history of this complaint?'' Some people find that towards the end of the day, there is mild ankle or foot swelling, particularly in people who spend much of their day standing. This is often a shared familial trait and is known as 'dependent oedema'. Basically, with prolonged sitting or standing the effect of gravity causes fluid to accumulate more in the feet and ankles. It is exacerbated by taking certain medication, going on a long flight or by being overweight/pregnant. If you have a history of trauma or surgery to the legs, this also increases your risk of swelling in the affected leg due to minor damage to the venous and/or lymphatic drainage of the leg.

The best way to combat dependent oedema is to elevate the legs whenever possible, wear compression socks to the knee level or ideally tights and to 'pump your calf muscles' by contracting them as much as possible during the day.


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