LEG SWELLING

Are you tired of aching, swollen legs distracting you from a comfortable daily life or a good night’s sleep?

There are many reasons you could be experiencing leg swelling – some are minor while others could indicate a much more serious problem with your heart, blood vessels, kidney, or liver if left untreated.

Some of the less worrisome causes include:

  • Salt retention
  • Pregnancy
  • Cellulitis
  • Being overweight
  • Being inactive for long periods of time
  • Wearing tight stockings or shoes
  • Side effects of medication

Each of these can be remedied relatively simply and quickly.

However, in some cases, cramping legs may be a symptom of an underlying disorder, like congestive heart failure, blood clots in the leg (deep vein thrombosis), lymphedema, parasite infection, kidney disease, nephrotic syndrome, liver disease and cirrhosis, broken bones, diseases that cause thickness of the skin layers like eosinophilic fasciitis and scleroderma or chronic venous insufficiency. These are much more serious, having to do with improper circulation of your blood through your limbs

Leg Swelling
Leg Swelling

WHAT EXACTLY HAPPENS TO CAUSE LEG SWELLING?

Lеg or foot swelling,  also known as peripheral edema, іѕ an accumulation of fluіd in the lower parts of the body (due to gravity). Fluid retention isn’t typically painful, but chronic swelling or improper treatment to reduce the swelling can cause your legs to become sore, burn, or itch over time.   The buildup of fluid can be caused by problems with the circulatory system, the lymphatic system or the kidneys.

Sometimes, inflammation of the muscles and tendons happens naturally as a reaction to an injury, disease, or rheumatoid inflammation condition.

You can often tell if your swelling is “persistent,” as with chronic circulatory conditions, if you apply pressure with your finger to the swollen part of your legs. Persisting indentation of a swollen leg after applying pressure with finger is called pitting edema.

How do I know if I should see a doctor for my leg swelling?

Seek urgent care from a doctor if your leg swelling comes on suddenly and is accompanied by:

  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Shortness of breath with exertion or lying flat in bed
  • Fainting or dizziness
  • Coughing blood

If you do not have any of the above symptoms, but your swelling has come on suddenly after trauma or injury, it’s likely you’ve broken a bone and should seek immediate care.

Even if your leg swelling is not urgent, if your legs swell regularly, it’s important to consult with a doctor to diagnose the reason.

Leg Swelling

COULD ONE OF THESE CONDITIONS BE THE CAUSE OF YOUR LEG SWELLING?

CIRRHOSIS

Cirrhosis occurs with severe scarring of the liver that typically comes on after an infection like hepatitis B or C or alcohol abuse. This condition can increase the blood pressure and cause poor circulation in the legs and ankles.

VENOUS INSUFFICIENCY

Chronic venous insufficiency is a condition caused by malfunctioning valves within the veins. The valves no longer prevent the backflow of blood in the circulatory system, causing “used” blood to reflux and pool. For details on this condition, click here. 

INFECTION OR INJURY

Infection and injury to the leg or foot can create pressure and additional blood flow to the affected areas, causing swelling.

BLOOD CLOT

If blood clots within a vein, it blocks proper circulation, leading to swelling, pain, and discomfort. The severity of blood clots can range from harmless to fatal.

PERICARDITIS 

The sac-like membrane surrounding the heart, called the pericardium, can become inflammed and cause a severe, chronic swelling in the legs and feets.

HORMONE CHANGES 

Fluctuating levels of estrogen and progesterone can reduce circulation in the legs, thereby causing swelling. These changes in hormone levels may occur during a woman’s menstrual cycle and pregnancy.

LYMPHEDEMA

Lymphedema causes blockages in the lymphatic system. This system consists of lymph nodes and blood vessels that help to carry fluid all around the body. A blockage in the lymphatic system can cause tissues to become swollen with fluid, leading to swelling in the legs.

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