Sometimes fluid can build up in the ankles and legs, which can cause swelling. There can be several reasons for this, including being unable to move about as much as usual. Using a footstool to keep your feet up when sitting can help. It’s also helpful to gently exercise your legs while you’re sitting. A nurse or physiotherapist can show you some exercises to do. Water tablets (diuretics) may also be prescribed by your doctor to help reduce the swelling. In some situations, your doctor or nurse can supply pressure stockings to help the circulation in your legs. If the swelling is only in one leg or ankle and is painful, red and hot, this may be a sign of a blood clot (thrombosis). People with cancer particularly have a higher risk of getting a blood clot and some cancer treatments can also increase your risk. Let your doctor know if you develop any of these symptoms, as treatment needs to be given as soon as possible.
Lymphoedema is swelling caused by a build-up of a fluid called lymph in the body tissues. It usually affects an arm or leg but can affect other parts of the body. It can be present from birth (primary lymphoedema) or it can happen if lymph nodes (sometimes called glands) have been removed by surgery or damaged by radiotherapy, or if a cancer is blocking them. Lymph nodes are part of the lymphatic system, which is part of the body’s immune system that helps us fight infections and other illnesses. If lymphoedema is diagnosed, you’re likely to be referred to a specialist for a full assessment. They can offer advice on self-care and treatments., including:
- Skincare to prevent injury and infection
- Positioning the limb and movement to help drain fluid
- Compressing the limb or area using compression garments such as sleeves, stockings, special bras or compression bandages
- Exercises and keeping active to improve the flow of lymph
- Self-massage or specialised massage called manual lymphatic drainage (MLD) to help move fluid that’s built up.
Some illnesses can cause a build-up of fluid in the tummy (abdomen). This is more common with illnesses or treatment that affect the liver or cancers that are present within the abdomen. This fluid is called ascites. The abdomen becomes swollen and distended, which can be uncomfortable or painful. Other symptoms include a tightness across the abdomen, unexplained weight gain, feeling breathless, feeling sick (nausea) and a reduced appetite. Your doctors may treat ascites by inserting a small tube into your abdomen to drain off the fluid.