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Is it safe for me to fly with swollen legs? DR MARTIN SCURR answers your health questions 

7 0 4
30.06.2020

My husband has pitting oedema and the doctor says there is no cure. Is this the case, and is it safe for him to take a long flight with this condition?

Linda Webb, by email.

Oedema is the medical term for s­welling that's caused by fluid retention. Pitting oedema means that if you apply pressure to the swollen area, then an indent will remain for a few seconds (with non-­pitting oedema, applying pressure will not cause any l­asting indentation — and this has different underlying causes).

The swelling itself is caused by an increase in the amount of fluid, known as lymph, present in the interstitial space — the area outside of blood vessels and around the cells which make up our tissue.

The fluid is essentially blood that has been filtered of blood cells by the capillary walls it has pushed through.

There are a number of conditions that cause this build-up of fluid, such as heart failure, cirrhosis of the liver, kidney disease and disorders of the veins that return blood to the heart — varicose veins (swollen veins), for example.

My husband has pitting oedema and the doctor says there is no cure. Is this the case, and is it safe for him to take a long flight with this condition?

I am going to assume that the oedema you describe is of the lower legs. The most common cause of bilateral leg oedema (swelling in both legs) is when the body has trouble sending blood from veins back to the heart.

This is usually due to severe varicose veins — the blood vessels are grossly widened and so there is less pressure on the blood to flow in the right direction. So blood, rather than coursing along a relatively narrow vessel he may be taking — most commonly a group of drugs called calcium channel blockers, which are prescribed for high blood pressure.

These medicines cause sodium retention, which inevitably leads to a build-up of fluid. Your GP will have taken these details into account before making his prognosis, and will also have........

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