The reasons for leg swelling are varied and range from mundane to severe. Learn the most common reasons for leg swelling and where to seek medical attention.
Leg swelling, known medically as peripheral edema, happens when fluid becomes trapped inside leg tissues. Symptoms of leg swelling include puffiness or tightness in the legs, a feeling of heaviness or achiness in the legs, and skin discoloration or leg ulcers in more severe cases.
Peripheral edema is a common condition that affects approximately 19 percent of the population, according to the NIH National Center for Biotechnology Information.
Causes can indicate a serious medical condition, such as a problem with the venous circulation system, the lymphatic system, or failure of the heart, liver, or kidneys. Lifestyle issues such as being overweight, inactive, and sitting or standing for a long time can also cause swollen legs.
The most common causes of leg swelling
- Venous insufficiency:
Also known as venous disease, this occurs when the veins in the legs are not able to pump blood back to the heart effectively. As a result, blood can pool in the legs, causing high pressure in the veins. These damaged leg veins can lead to ankle and leg swelling, achy throbbing legs, itching legs and feet, and varicose veins.
This condition occurs when the lymphatic system cannot properly drain excess fluid from the body. The lymphatic system is part of the immune system consisting of a network of tissues, organs, glands, and vessels that all work together to drain a watery fluid called lymph from the body. Fluid retention can lead to swelling in the legs and other parts of the body.
- Deep vein thrombosis (DVT): This is a potentially dangerous condition in which a blood clot forms in the deep veins of the legs. The clot can block blood flow, causing swelling and pain. If you suspect you may have a DVT, seek immediate medical attention.
- Heart and kidney problems: The heart and kidneys play an essential role in regulating the balance of fluids in the body. If there is a problem with either of these organs, it can lead to fluid buildup in the legs and cause swelling. According to the National Kidney Foundation, swelling around the hands, feet, and ankles may be associated with kidney or heart failure and shouldn’t be dismissed.
- Pregnancy: During pregnancy, there is an increase in blood volume and fluid in the body. This can cause swelling in the legs and other parts of the body as well.
- Standing or sitting for long periods: Prolonged standing or sitting can cause fluid to accumulate in the legs, leading to swelling.
Some medications, such as hormonal therapy, can cause fluid retention and lead to leg swelling.
Injuries or surgery to the legs can also cause swelling.
Preventing swollen legs
Warding off leg swelling can be as simple as maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, and avoiding prolonged standing or sitting. If you are at risk of developing leg swelling, wearing compression stockings can also help prevent it.
Is leg swelling causing you discomfort? We can help!
If you are experiencing leg swelling, you must speak with your vein doctor to determine the best course of treatment. They can perform a simple examination and a diagnostic ultrasound and may recommend treatment options such as compression stockings, lifestyle changes, or a minimally invasive outpatient procedure.
Center for Vein Restoration (CVR) is the leader in treating venous disease-related leg swelling. CVR offers the most advanced, patient-focused diagnostic and treatment methods for venous insufficiency at its 100+ vein clinics. Impacting the lives of over 200,000 patients annually, CVR conducts more vein procedures than any other vein clinic or hospital. Treatment is covered by most major insurance, including Medicare and Medicaid.
Call 800-FIX-LEGS (800-349-5347) to speak to a knowledgeable Patient Services Representative or to book an appointment. You may also choose an appointment location and time HERE.