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Why Does COPD Cause My Legs and Ankles to Swell?

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Updated October 03, 2008

Question: Why Does COPD Cause My Legs and Ankles to Swell?
Answer: COPD does not cause edema per se. Swelling of your legs, feet and ankles may occur only after pulmonary hypertension (severe) develops. Pulmonary hypertension is a complication of COPD and occurs due to an increase in pressure in the blood vessels of the lungs. The increased pressure causes damage to the vessels causing blood to back up in the veins of the body. This results in an excess amount of fluid which leaks into the surrounding tissues. When you add gravity to the mix, you now have dependent edema as the fluid pools in your legs, ankles and feet.

Putting your feet up higher than your heart and as often as possible will help reduce the edema in your lower extremities. If this condition becomes bothersome, it is best to talk with your doctor as he may recommend diuretic therapy, which relieves your body of unnecessary fluids.

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