Your Proactive Caregiver Advocate: Dr. Cynthia Speaks!

Dr. Cynthia J. Hickman
2 min readApr 22, 2024


Topic: Caregivers: Ignoring Swollen Extremities Can Be Costly

Photo Credit: Mayo Clinic

Caregivers are truly remarkable souls. They take on the task of caring for loved ones without knowing the many unknowns and surprises that will occur along the journey. However, some symptoms should alert every caregiver, and action is required!

Swollen legs and feet, also known as peripheral edema, are abnormal and can signify a more significant problem. Swelling can be gradual, but extra fluid in the body can create difficulties in breathing and walking. What are some situations that cause swelling in extremities?

Causes of Swelling In Extremities

Many factors can cause swelling in the extremities. It is often explained by saying that the body’s tissues retain fluid in all the wrong places due to circulation problems, kidney problems, and sometimes a dysfunctional lymphatic system(which drains into the bloodstream).

We often associate swelling to the heart and lungs, but fluid can build up from sitting or standing too long, obesity, and wearing clothes too tight. It can also result from joint inflammation, an injury from bumping furniture, falling, or an inflammatory condition like arthritis. Blood clots, a life-threatening condition, have been known to cause swelling. If you have any suspicions about this condition, seek medical care immediately! Prescription medications are not often considered a reason for swelling concerns, but some medications can cause swelling and should be reported to the medical team immediately. Steroids, some heart medications, and over-the-counter medications that can interact with prescribed medications may be problematic. Never give medication to your loved ones that the healthcare team has not approved. Seek a health care provider for swelling(edema), shortness of breath, discoloration of extremities, and chest discomfort or pain.

Treatment Varies

Swelling varies depending on the cause. Healthcare practitioners will prescribe the proper treatment and guidance on a case-by-case basis. One size does not fit all; individualized treatment is needed. Plans may include changing or adding new medication, reducing salt intake, testing and lab work, and keeping your legs up when sitting.

As Your Proactive Caregiver Advocate, you mustn't ignore any swelling you find on your loved one. It can be costly if not addressed and treated. Know the signs and symptoms of medications that may cause swelling and report these findings to the healthcare providers. Ensure footwear and clothing are comfortable and not tight, and elevate extremities, which may help with swollen limbs. Be safe! Be well!

Dr. Cynthia J. Hickman is a retired registered nurse and case manager, CEO of Your Proactive Caregiver Advocate and author of From the Lens of Daughter, Nurse, and Caregiver: A Journey of Duty and Honor, and The Black Book of Important Information for Caregivers.




Dr. Cynthia J. Hickman

Dr. Hickman is the author of From the Lens of Daughter, Nurse, and Caregiver: A Journey of Duty and Honor and The Black Book of Important for Caregivers.