Home treatment is the first step to treating edema, or swelling due to excess fluid in the legs and ankles. Treatment may include elevating the feet above heart level, wearing compression stockings and exercising the legs, according to MedlinePlus. Reducing sodium in the diet, losing weight and avoiding tight clothing can also reduce swelling.
If self-care measures don't work, a physician may prescribe diuretics to treat the swelling, explains eMedicineHealth. A variety of diuretics are available, which differ in the way they work and in their strength, but all of them cause the kidneys to excrete excess fluid from the body. This decreases total fluid volume, reducing swelling. Dehydration is a potential side effect of these medications, so they aren't without risk.
Edema may be caused by certain medications, underlying disease, pregnancy, or prolonged sitting or standing, among other conditions. Though it seems innocuous, edema can cause uncomfortable complications, states Mayo Clinic. It may cause stretched, itchy skin and increasing pain as swelling progresses. It can cause stiffness and difficulty walking, decreased circulation, increased risk of serious skin infections and ulcers, and scarring between tissue layers. Edema may also reduce the ability of muscles, joints, arteries and veins to contract.