When Is Leg Swelling Cause for Concern?

If your legs appear puffy or swollen, it's natural to be concerned. Seeing a doctor is the best course of action as causes can range from nothing serious to a condition that requires treatment. 

Here at our Precision Vascular offices in Arlington, Dallas, Mesquite, and McKinney, Texas, our highly skilled vascular and interventional radiologists provide innovative treatment for a wide range of issues, from vascular disease and vein care to women's health and interventional oncology. They are also well-versed in diagnosing and treating issues like leg swelling.

Leg swelling

Two main culprits cause leg swelling: fluid buildup known as edema and inflammation. Edema occurs when fluid from tiny blood vessels gets trapped in the tissue. Inflammation can result from an injury, such as a ligament tear or bone fracture, or from arthritis or another inflammatory disease.

Symptoms of leg swelling

Swollen legs can be accompanied by one or more other symptoms, including pain in the legs, numbness, and shortness of breath. Itching, redness, a rash, and skin ulceration can also occur.

What causes leg swelling?

Legs can swell for a variety of reasons, from mild to serious.

Excessive standing or sitting

Some people experience minor swelling after being on their feet all day or sitting for long periods of time, such as on an airplane or in a car. Individuals who are overweight or pregnant are more likely to experience this, but it can strike anyone.

To avoid this type of swelling, watch the amount of salt you consume, stay active with walking, do stretches or ankle rolls, and prop up your feet.

Deep vein thrombosis

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a potentially life-threatening issue that occurs when a blood clot forms and risks breaking off and moving to the lungs. This could block the blood flow and cause a pulmonary embolism. 

The clot often occurs in the pelvis, thigh, or lower leg, with symptoms that affect just one leg and can include swelling, red or warm skin, tenderness or pain, and enlarged veins visible through the skin. If you suspect you have DVT, get treatment immediately.

Superficial thrombophlebitis

Superficial thrombophlebitis causes blood clots near the surface of the skin. It can be painful and might need treatment, but these clots don’t typically break off and cause serious damage like DVT.

Chronic venous insufficiency

Chronic venous insufficiency happens when blood pools in the veins and causes swelling. This occurs when there is a malfunction of the veins' valves and the blood is no longer forced to flow in the proper direction. 

Symptoms can include skin that is discolored, irritated, dry, or cracked, or that has sores. Pain can also be present.

Other causes

Swollen legs can also be a symptom of other ailments like lymphedema, congestive heart failure, liver disease, or kidney disease.  Infections, injuries, and arthritis, as well as other diseases, can also cause swelling.

If you’re suffering from swollen legs, contact our nearest office to make an appointment for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan today.

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