Love your legs again

What Is Causing Your Swollen Legs?

February 17th, 2012 | Posted by CenterForVein in chronic venous insufficiency

Leg swelling, or edema, as it is called in the medical profession is a common condition that plagues many of our community members. Edema can afflict both men and woman and adults of all ages. Edema can be caused by many different factors so it is crucial to work with your primary care doctor and the right specialist to alleviate your issue. Once identified and treated your quality of life can be greatly improved.

Edema is swelling of both legs from a buildup of extra fluid. Edema has many possible causes:

  1. Prolonged standing or sitting, especially in hot weather, can cause excess fluid to accumulate in the feet, ankles and lower legs.
  2.  Tiny valves inside the veins of the legs can become weakened, causing a common problem called venous insufficiency. This problem makes it more difficult for the veins to pump blood back to the heart, and leads to varicose veins and buildup of fluid.
  3. Severe chronic (long-term) lung diseases, including emphysema and chronic bronchitis, increase pressure in the blood vessels that lead from the heart to the lungs. This pressure backs up in the heart. The higher pressure causes swelling in the legs and feet.
  4. Congestive heart failure, a condition in which the heart can no longer pump efficiently, causes fluid buildup in the lungs and other parts of the body. Swelling is often most visible in the feet and ankles.
  5. Pregnancy can cause edema in the legs as the uterus puts pressure on the vena cava. Fluid retention during pregnancy also can be caused by a more serious condition called preeclampsia.
  6. Low protein levels in the blood caused by malnutrition, kidney and liver disease can cause edema. The proteins help to hold salt and water inside the blood vessels so fluid does not leak out into the tissues. If a blood protein, called albumin, gets too low, fluid is retained and edema occurs, especially in the feet, ankles and lower legs.

Symptoms vary according to the type of edema and its location. In general, the skin above the swollen area will be stretched and shiny. You should see a doctor to determine the cause of leg swelling. If both legs are swollen, your doctor will ask about other symptoms and will examine you. A urine test will show if you are losing protein from the kidneys. Blood tests, a chest x-ray and an electrocardiogram (EKG) also may be done.  Arterial or venous ultrasound tests may be done to look for blockages in your leg arteries or bad valves in your leg veins.

Treatment of edema focuses on correcting the cause of the fluid accumulation. A low-salt diet usually helps. You also should avoid drinking too much fluid. If you are not short of breath, elevate your legs above the level of your heart to keep swelling down. Your doctor might suggest that you take a low dose of a diuretic (water pill).

For swollen ankles and feet caused by pregnancy, elevate your legs and avoid lying on your back to help improve blood flow and decrease swelling.

If you have leg edema caused by venous insufficiency, elevate your legs periodically and wear support (compression) stockings. However, to permanently fix this issue a simple in office medical procedure (called endovenous ablation) covered by most insurance plans is needed to improve the flow of blood through the leg veins.

No matter what the cause of edema, any swollen area of the body should be protected from pressure, injury and extreme temperatures. The skin over swollen legs becomes more fragile over time. Cuts, scrapes and burns in areas that have edema take much longer to heal and are more likely to get infected.

The outlook for edema of the legs depends on the cause. For most people with edema, the prognosis is excellent as long as you don’t ignore the problem and talk to your doctor.


James’s Testimonial – Baltimore, Maryland

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  • Traceygr2

    my whole body is swelling now.and am told am losing protein in my blood.

  • Supportsockshop

    Great article with solid advice. Sometimes people jump to a quick decision with leg swelling. Depending on what’s going they may have success with a simple solution like compression hose, but it’s definitely wise to be thorough.

  • Mkhemlani

    My ankless , feet and legs are swollen, I have been to many physicians, they all said to wear compression stockings. That’s a temporary partial fix , the situation has been getting worst. I am not getting much help from the doctors, just wasting time and Alberta Health Care money. I am disappointed with the medical professionals. I went for help on day one, when I noticed the swollen ankles, it’s been a few years. CAN ANYONE HELP ME?

    • CenterForVein

      Please give us a call at 800-830-8346 to set up a free consultation with one of Physicians.

  • facebook

    my legs swollen & i fell pin inside when is hot,pliz help me to know the problem.

  • victoriadawn

    my leg has been swollen for a few months now iv been to the doctors about 4 times now and they end up just sending me home becuase i have no health insurance, now my legs so swollen that my boot dosent even want to go on, and my toes are starting to feel almost like they have been novacained. somone please help…. i have no idea what to do.

    • darr

      I hope you found some help

      • Joseph McLinden

        It’s ok, it’s part of the Hope and Change you were hoping for.

    • Stephanie Whitney Garcia

      But they can’t deny you medical care. It’s illegal.

  • Mercy John

    two weeks ago my left ankle was swollen. it was so uncomfortable, I couldn’t wear shoes except oversize slippers, IA consultant prescribed drugs for me and i am okay now. I can wear, hilly, cover all sort of shoes

  • kiran taneja

    my mother is heart patient, her legs is usually swelled and there is no flexibility in legs and also after wake up, swelling is also on face . doctors normally suggest dytor plus for this , but this medicine increases weakness . I am totally disappointed . kindly suggest …….

  • annapurna

    My boath legs are swellen un comfortablewhat should

  • Sandra Plant

    .I’m a 32yr. Old female & this year I suddenly started having alot of awelling in my legs, ankles & feet. But recently it has become worse & worse. My ankles & feet are the worst although I have swelling all over my body, face & hans too. I am SO UNCOMFORTABLE: & I’m startig2get worried……

    • Beauty82

      I feel just like that

  • ruth

    I am a 72 year old female, I have varicose veins, but my Question is would they cause my legs to be red under my knees to my ankle. what can i or should i do besides wear support hose.The doctor knows about it but does nothing. the circulation is o:k. my legs are also bumpy.thanks.

    • Christina Pinzenscham Brady

      Did you ever figure out what is causing the redness and bumpiness? I have the same thing on my left leg below my knee. Redness and bumpy like an orange peel. I have had it for about 8 yrs now. It started when I was 32 and now I am 40. No doctor can tell me what it is. I would appreciate any info.

  • alex

    my mum who is 80, her legs are realy big and hard to the touch she has banged them a few times and liqid come out of where she as banged it what is this thanks

  • Rinky

    for sure,foot health is not taken serious at all,visit a podiatrist… practitioners focused on feet.

  • Flossy Mutasa

    My name is Flossy. After giving birth to my third born baby, I suddenly experienced swelling of my feet and face and a litte on my hands. I never experienced it when I was pregnant and my blood pressure was always low or normal during my pregnancy until I gave birth. What could be the problem?

  • Amanda Dixon

    I will try to contact you all soon.

    • CenterForVein

      Please give us a call at 800-830-8346 to set up a free consultation with one of Physicians.

  • thulasi

    I’m a 32yr. Old female & this year I suddenly started having alot of
    awelling in my legs, ankles & feet. But recently it has become
    worse & worse. My ankles & feet are the worst although I have
    swelling all over my body, face & hans too. I am SO UNCOMFORTABLE:
    & I’m startig2get worried……Please give/ tell me what is the problem in my body?

  • Knut Holt

    regular exercise is good against edema, even though it should be adjusted to the condition. Also massage theraspy done the correct way can help. Remedies that reduce tendencies for inflammation can help.

  • lyn

    since having a ;;pacemaker ,I have suffered worse health,and I have thre blood clots in my arm and both my legs are heavy and swollen with fluid….If I could turn the time back I would have said no to the pacemaker.

  • sheela

    Hi i m 43 yrs old female. I drink brandy every nite quarter glass. My legs are swelling. Does my drinking habit contribute to my condition.?

    • CenterForVein

      Please give us a call at 800-830-8346 to set up a free consultation with one of Physicians.

  • Geneva Marner

    Take Nattokinase it is good for you and will make you well and your swelling will be gone if its related to veins, blood, or your heart. IT IS natural and the results are amazing!!!!!

  • mapine

    48 year old female who in the past year started to have ankle swelling on the left side. When it’s hot out it get’s worse to the point my lower leg and foot will be swollen. My doc says it’s arthritis but I”m not sure that’s accurate. My heart has been tested and there are no issues with that. I’ve gained weight over the past two years and I am on high blood pressure medication. Does anyone know what this could be?

    • CenterForVein

      Please give us a call at 800-830-8346 to set up a free consultation with one of Physicians.

  • jwp

    My brother was burned 80% of his body when he was 2 yrs old. Now he is 30 and his legs from time to time swell very badly as a result from the burns, he has no skin pores to release swet. What type of doctor should he be referred to? Thanks for any info.

  • sandi aniger

    My nephew is 48 and complains about having swollen feet etc. I wasnt concerned until he told me they were swollen for 2 mnths. He claims to be clean but i suspect methamphetamine use, could this drug cause swollen feet and legs? Help me help him please!

  • lorraine

    I am a 43 yr old woman,i have also gained weight,trying very hard to lose it. For the last several months I have noticed swelling in my arms,legs.and feet.
    Very uncomfortable.but more the last week. My tailbone,and entire left side,legs feet have been so not able to my toes are numb!
    I am concerned.went to the er ,they just gave me pain I have run out. Who do I see what do I do? Ive tried everything.i cant sleep
    Or function.please help

  • Tawaina Gaither

    I am 38 and both of my legs have been swollen since March and I have been to a number of doctors. They all say there is no medical reason for them to be swollen and to top it off they now have sore on them where they swell. Can someone please help. I am a diabetic with kidney isssues, high blood pressure and hypothyroidism. They hurt so bad that some days I can get out of bed. I was in a car accident in March and hit them on the dash and they have been swollen every since. Help me please and thank you.

  • Andy Maddicks

    I am 52 year old male whilst walking to bus stop after work i had sudden shooting pain from ankle to calf very painful. Recently i have been undergoing tests for shortness of breath and chest pain, awaiting results. I have noticed some days my ankle swollen and when this happened in my calf that got quite swollen too. After wearing surgical stocking for couple days started to ease. This has all happened in my right leg only. Any reccomendations please.

  • gayla

    I’m 48 and have dealt with edema for 23 yrs. Just recently found out 3 of the main arteries in my legs didn’t work at all. Had all 3 closed off but my legs swell just as bad. Does anyone know how long it will take after surgery to help swelling go down?

    • Hana

      What kind of tests did they run on you to find this out? I am 47 and have the same problem for years.

  • Marty Fry

    I’m 67, No health problems at all. My ankles and feet swell off and on. Almost all the time now. I have none of the causes listed. This is so frustrating! I do sit a LOT. I don’t exercise anymore. My lab test all come out great. Cholesteral is a little elevated and I take low level meds for that. I take the lowest dose of estrogen possible and have for decades. I guess I should cut out salt completely….YUK. No heart, kidney or lung problems. No varicose veins. I am at a loss. I hate wearing long pants all the time. It is summer. I am a thin person. They look horrible! And they feel weird….like big tight balloons.

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