Severe Edema in both feet, ankles and calfs

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Several days ago, I developed Edema (or Oedema) overnight in both my feet, ankles and calfs up to my knees. This is my third bout of edema. The first was last year but only in my right foot and the second time was a couple of months ago, again in both feet and ankles but was very mild.

Two days later, the swelling became so severe, both my feet looked bruised and turned a funny red colour. The pain became that powerful, I couldn't walk whatsoever.

Im in UK so I rang 111 NHS helpline who sent out an ambulance. The paramedics arrived and were shocked as they had never seen edema so severe before. This was a Saturday and my GP closed so they arranged an appointment with an out of hours GP at my local hospital  in the next hour. 

He had no idea what the cause was and was that worried, he sent me to another hospital 30 miles away to see a specialist. I arrived and was admitted in straight away for tests and observation.

They took blood and urine tests, a chest xray, a heart reading straight away. But they couldn't link a diagnosis with the edema. They flooded me with antibiotics assuming that it was an infection.

I was discharged the day after as the redness and pain levels seemed to have gone down a little after the antibiotics and i will be returning soon for an ECG and other scans. I left with walking sticks so that I could walk around easier .

Now today its been almost a week. I still need the walking sticks to walk, the swellings is still huge, the pitting is still evident but i do think the antibiotics is helping some.

But I really wish I could know what this is as its very worrying. The docs couldn't see a problem with my heart, liver or kidneys. I have also been tested for DVT and gout. My blood sugar is fine. The only possible resolution is that it cold have some link with the hot weather, but that wasn't confirmed.

Has anyone else had severe painful edema in both legs and the doctors  couldn't find a diagnosis?

My current medications  I take regularly are: Mirtazipine 45mg and Hydroxyzine 25mg. 

Can anyone advice or share  their experiences? Is there anything I can do to help minimise the risk of this happening again? If this is heat related, Im going to have a hell time every time it gets hot. But surely 'hot weather' cant just be the only explanation there is why I have major swelling in both my legs and feet.

Any help will be appreciated as this is very worrying me.

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69 Replies

  • Posted

    hi baxb

    heat can have effect on odema also are you on the large side or small this also can cause it do you take a drink or do you stand for long periods do you ever sit on a stool with your legs dangling down these are just some of my symptoms of how i used to get odema did they check you for cellulitus i have had that my leg was ginormousi was on holiday i was rushed into hospital put straight on IV antibiotics.

    high blood pressure can cause it there are lots of things that can attribute to odema and its not forst to be related to heart trouble i would suggest you keep a log to find out if it is anything related to the sun how many times it happens when and if its sunny then do this with the other symptoms so you can rule out each one that dosen't or do's effect it.

    im not a dr but i have a sneaky feeling it could be cellulitus have you knocked or got any marks or open wounds bite even from a normal midge bite or house fly that comes from outside can bite you and that cause's it to flare up how many times as this happened also when ever if it is that you must always tell the hospital you have it which is the first thing they can start to think its a flare up and saves time in going through all the rigmrol of trying to rule out such as checking heart or all what you have mentioned they can give you antibiotics straight away.

    i have had this now for 20 yrs but a slightes knock can cause odema

    you need to think really about this so get your brain working think of the number of times its happened if this is the first time then it will be easy to monitor i stood on a nail it only just touch not even broke the skin but it caused a flare up the next time it happened was last yr i just caught my shin on a small buffet not broke the skin same thing caused odema the only thing to treat this is by antibiotics.

    what ever is the cause you must elevate your legs and do they throb untill the swelling gose down if not the water can get to your heart this can cause you to be in serious trouble and cause the water to travel upto in the lungs then heart attack if this is going to get too freqent the dr may put you on water tablets im on them myself but you are always going to the toilet but its better out than in.

    i wouldnt risk keep walking about till they are back to normal within a few days you are better keeping your legs up this will help to get them back to normal or if you can get some surgical stockings you need 3 times smaller than your normal size you would buy best thing to do when they go back to normal measure your calf in middle then get the small if you are big boned or small if tinny then if it isen't celullitis and it is the sun put them straight on also dont stop them antibiotics

    just in case what mgram are they 250 or 500 and if penicillin or amoxacillin are the best if it is cellulitus you will see it will effect the legs straight away even on one occasion if say eg you hurt your finger it will go red and swell up then your legs will

    my legs swell if i cross them its not always it shows in a blood test you will find this out yourself by the red mark or legs just swell up you could go to your dr just out of curiosity or just carry on till you have finished the antibiotics.

    hope this as helped you as i say there are so many reason's i could go on forever.

    keep me posted take care


      on any of your legs if not rule that out or have you in the last week or so had any thing just mentioed because if so cellulitus can lay dormant a few days then flare up causing this once in your body it stays there  

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    • Posted

      Hi all

      My dad's age is day suddenely he had a pain in one of the finger in leg.then suddenely pain started underneath the ribs.we did ECG it came normal.then swelling came on left leg bottom where the finger was paining.then on left hand little part.after ecg we did x- ray of all the part where swelling and pain was but all came we did the test of arthritis and it came we did creatin test,liver test,urine culture test,chikangunia.all test came normal.after 25 days he sarted getting swelling on left knee and right also.he couldn't even move the left leg coz of huge admitted him to hospital and doc told us to do colour doppler test and vascular doppler that doc said its just water filled in ur knees and leg.its just viral which has caused fever and swelling.its been 3 days back from hospital pain has gone but swelling has not decreased even a percentage.doc says it will go by time and medication. from today again lower ribbs started paining little for that doc says it gastric. pls advice if any test i am missing at.thnx

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  • Posted

    sorry baxb

    i have just re; read your question and you have stipulated this isent the firs time i do recon it could be this what ive suspected if this is right then you need antibiotics every time just to be on the safe side till you get it confirmed but was it sunny on every occasion or not???each time it happened as this could also be the cause or the other symptoms ive mentioned mine get so tight sometimes at the back of my calf and hurt.keep them elivated this is now they are so bad try not to walk about till they go right down or you going to be aggrivating them i no its hard if you have children or work but they will just be making them worse it also could make you feel sick and dizzy when there is so much water there when i have gone to bed they have sometimes gone down then as soon as i started moving about they swell back up.

    good luck

    and keep them up.

    christine x

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    • Posted

      Hi Christine98681

      Firstly I want to thank you for such a detailed reply smile

      The work I do involves me sitting at a desk all day so yes, I do have my legs dangling down most of the time. I am 12 stone and 5'3" so I am overweight, which I am now starting to diet.

      Last year when it first happened, it was in July, so yes, the weather was really hot. Then this year I had Oedema mild and it was start of June. This time, the most severe attack was  when its been getting really hot. So yes, I do think it is weather related. Which does kinda suck because it could mean I may get the swellings everytime its likely to get hot.

      At the moment, the Oedema has mostly  gone down. I still have some pains but not as much. I am still taking the antibiotics which I think has helpend me tremendously.

      None of the doctors mentioned Cellulitis. I dont know what it is either so I'll do some research soon.

      As far as I know, I havent been bitten or knocked any parts of my legs. When the first time I had Oedema, I thought it was an insect bite, but I still couldnt find a mark.

      Also, I have found that the last week, I have found it really hard to pass urine. I'm now back to normal, but for several days, I had a constant feeling of needing the toilet but as soon as Iget there, nothing would happen. I'd get up and then need to sit back down again. This meant I was spending a lot of wasted time in the bathroom, but as I said, this doesnt seem to be affeting me anymore.

      The last few days, Ive kept my legs and ankles bandaged up. It did help ease the pain but I will buy some surgical stockings next time like you said.

      I have been trying to keep my legs elevated as well, which seemed to also help. 

      I'm now going to do some research on Cellultis and see if there is any link. But you are right that it happens only in hot weather. Its very imobilising when I get Oedema, its ot just a little swell, it happens very severely.

      Thanks again for your help. I will keep updating here smile


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    • Posted

      Hi, I have gotten this odema in my hands, feet, throat, and genitalia. I have had some success using Advil for the hands and feet and Benadryl for the throat. It can be an allergic reaction so keep a food diary of what you have eaten 24 hours prior to the episodes. I would get tested for all the food allergies and other things that may affect a reaction. I.e. Pet dander. I may have something called HAE a genetic deficiency that has to do with dysfunction in the auto immune system, related to C inhibitors. I suggest you google this and learn about all the things that can cause angio odema
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  • Posted

    hi baxb

    glad you got back to me first of all the reason you you might be on antibiotics is from a water infection but this wouldnt cause you to have cellulitus but im supprised your dr as not had blood tests and checked your blood pressure and had your cholesterol level checked ECG done some have a monitor at your clinice he will no if you need water tablets for the odema and  high  blood presure but a different tablet if high cholestrol all the time you have had this dosent matter if you are over weight you need to get you sorted out

    i don't no how old you are but even young people can get odeama and the rest you have give a bit more to go on do you eat healthy or junk food im not saying you do but its supprising an unhealthy diet can knock your body to pot

    i don't think its cellulitus now with what you have explained  and the way you are sitting at work can be why your legs swelling as i did ask you that as soon as you dangle your legs mine used to be the same dont  ever cross your legs either

    and heat is the worst thing too

       keep me posted and let me no what your out come is you will be fine once you have had all these tests done got sorted

    christine xx


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  • Posted

    Hi baxb. I've been getting severe swelling of feet ankles and calves similar to what you describe. It started several months ago and I find it impossible to sit for very long without the swelling and pain numbness starting. This makes life v difficult. I asked doc about thyroid as I had a couple of other symptoms which went with that, and swelling is also a symptom. My thyroid level has been dropping over the last few months but my doc keeps telling me it's not due to thyroid. I'm still pursuing that though. Is your swelling pitting or non pitting - non pitting is firm rather than puffy, and suggests circulation rather than water retention is the problem ( non pitting is also associated with thyroid) In uk the thyroid levels classed as Normal are much.wider than in other countries. If you check out thyroid symptoms it may be what's causing your problem. I sleep with feet propped up on pillows. Feet should be higher than your heart. You're right. Drs seem puzzled by this problem . I've lost count of all the tests. It gets you down.
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    • Posted

      hi eva

      you seem to have got this the wrong way round pitting is when you put your finger onto the foot it leaves a dent in it that takes ages to come back out also you find it gose a kind of white in colour this is water retention were ever you touch it on the foot execpt the calf it stays hard when you sit down try not to sit on a soft cusion this makes it worse also sit with your legs on a stool this helped me you can buy the cusion of the net its a special one go to a mobility site this will explain different types for this kind of needs you need to keep of your feet as much as possible and rest them when they are at the worst with the numbness as you could jump up and fall this is when the blood suppy is not getting through fast enough this is why its called odema and water tablets help take the swelling down  you should be able to go to the toilet more frequently. i hope you also get your problem sorted out.

      you can go through the net and find lots of symptoms that may add up to what you think we have but this is not getting to the bottom of your symptoms try useing surgical stockings this can help the swelling i used to get this quite a lot do you think your dr is not giving you the right tests as something should show as to why you are the way you are you could go on forever looking but you cannot diagnose your own symptoms yourself i would demand you see another dr if more than one at your surgury this is what they are there for.

      keep us posted.


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  • Posted

    Dear Baxb,

    I seem to be going through what you are going through. Mine started this Jul and where i am July is relatively cold and happened to move to a hotter region in Aug and the legs got really bad. What I have noted however in the 3 or so months, the oedema comes a few days to mensturation. I have been several tests and they all were negative. My doctor said i should lose weight and cut on salt and avoid diuretics completely.

    To Christine, what is the treatment for this kind of oedema. Apart from elevating and massaging the legs, exercizing regulary, cutting weight and sugar, What can one do to get rid of this very irritating problem. Could it be hormonal?? Can hormonal balancing help??


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    • Posted

      hi hikitambogo

      i think your dr wants to go back to nursing school the most common help for odema is duretic's all so they can put you on  certain beta blocka and check the blood pressure regular if the water gets any were near the heart dose he realise what the concequences can lead to .i know if over weight that can cause it but that still dosen't give him the right to assume he should be helping you i would see another dr.

      surgical stockings can help a lot if you drink beer that can cause it sitting too long in one position for long lengths of time or crossing the legs.

      im not sure about the hormone balancing but i do no about odema and what it can cause.


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    • Posted

      hi i forget to tell you

      ask for a referal to a cardiologist odeam is a build up of water which can be caused through high colestrol ,high blood pressure ,tryglycarides been to high you have to be put on a special diet for that i was hot weather, and the start of heart trouble, if proper test are done such as ECG over weight, people just don't get it i wasent i had it bad for yrs there are lots of things that can cause it but ive never not known any one not been on duretic's for it when you put your finger on the foot press it in it will stay there for ages before it gose back to were it was before you did it.

      exerciseing is the worst thing you can do also you need the surgical stockings on perminant if they swell that bad least till you get it sorted ive had my share of odema and the pain from the calves when trying to get up my legs used to feel like they were no blood supply getting through they got to the pitch were they felt like the back of the calve's was throbbing if you can bear the stocking on keep them on through the day you can take them of at night but put them on as soon as you get up i used to wear tight jean's they not really good but any tight clothing from waist down can cause it it all depends on the reason why you having this its a serious thing to have if not checked out properly.

      hope you find this intresting as i notice you haven't replyed back from my last post i sent you.

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    • Posted


      it effected me any time not just when i was having a period even when after i went through the change so i wouldn't put it down to hormone in balance its just something eny one can have it one thing i was put on was HRT but the dr took me back of it he told me you have more chance of getting pulmonay embolisim in the legs i think if you read up the side effects about it this will tell you about the side effects of putting some people on HRT ask another dr ive been on frusamide for yrs you will pass a lot of urine but least you no its working.


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  • Posted

    Hi.Ask your dr to check for protein in your urine. Edema, high cholesterol and protein in urine is a sign of a kidney problem called nephrotic syndrome. A lot of gps don't do the right tests for it which will show the classic signs as kidney function isn't always affected so docs say kidneys are fine.. Edema starts in ankles and feet and spreads to legs etc. It's worse when standing or sitting.It can take ages to get diagnosed if Drs don't know what they're looking for. Good luck
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