What can be done for swollen legs due to CHF?

A fellow caregiver asked...

Mom has had congestive heart failure (CHF) for many years. For the past month, her legs are so swollen she cannot bend her knees and now has small blisters forming at the ankles. She has been admitted to hospital many times for an IV diuretic. This usually takes care of the ankle swelling, but now that the whole leg is swollen it doesn't do anything for the legs. It does, however, help her breathing which is probably why she is getting the IV in the first place. What can be done for the blisters and is this "to be expected" at this stage? Mom is 87.

Expert Answer

Carolyn Strimike, N.P. and Margie Latrella, N.P. are cardiac nurse practitioners specializing in the prevention of heart disease and stroke. They have over 40 years of nursing experience in Cardiology between them. The main goal of their work is to counsel, motivate and empower women to adopt healthy lifestyle choices.

Leg swelling due to congestive heart failure is very common. The swelling is due to excess fluid that backs up because the heart muscle is weak and cannot pump well. Diuretics are the usual treatment because they help the body get rid of excess fluid. There are numerous diuretics that can be used. If one diuretic is not working they can be used in combination along with other therapies. We would recommend that you consult with a wound care specialist to treat the blisters. Elevating your mom's legs, limiting salt and fluid intake and wearing support stockings may help relieve the leg swelling which may in turn help the blisters heal.