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Why You Should Never Ignore Swelling in Your Legs

If you notice that your legs, ankles, or feet are swollen, you have edema. Any part of your body may be affected, but it’s usually most obvious in your lower limbs. Edema can occur from something as simple as sitting or standing in one position for an extended time, or it can be a symptom of a medical condition or side effect of a medication.

Though it can be the result of harmless circumstances, edema can also accompany life-threatening conditions, so it’s important not to ignore an unexpected occurrence of leg swelling. Contact Dr. Michael Kassouf and our team at VeinMedic at any of our four locations for an expert assessment of your conditions.

Causes of swollen legs

There are dozens of reasons why you might have swollen legs. Water retention issues are common, and typically mild and short lived. It can often accompany a woman’s menstrual cycle or occur after a long flight where you remained sitting for hours. This type of edema usually resolves itself without treatment.

Edema is also a symptom of circulatory system issues, or problems with the heart, kidneys, or liver. Venous insufficiency stems from problems with the valves in leg veins. When these malfunction, blood can gather in your legs, which forces fluid from the blood and into surrounding tissue. This type of edema often accompanies varicose veins.

Congestive heart failure can also contribute to edema throughout the body. Your heart no longer pumps blood as efficiently as it once did, and one of the effects of this is that it increases the pressure of blood in your leg veins, resulting in a similar fluid transfer to neighboring tissue.

Your kidneys filter sodium and water from your body, so when they aren’t working efficiently, you retain fluid and salt, each of which complicates edema in your legs. Liver problems can also contribute to pressure in blood vessels.

Lymphedema can cause leg swelling because of damage to your lymphatic system, a frequent complication of cancer treatments that remove or damage lymph nodes. A healthy lymphatic system assists the normal drainage of excess fluids from your body.

Drug reactions

Some medications may cause edema as a side effect. Some drugs that may cause edema include:

Potential complications of edema

No matter what the cause of your edema, it can contribute to health complications if you don’t receive treatment. Swelling can become more severe, and it may become painful. Chronically stretched skin can feel itchy and add to your discomfort.

Your legs and ankles may lose flexibility and mobility, making walking more difficult. You may sit more in response to this, further aggravating edema. Skin ulcers and tissue infections can develop more easily, and additional damage to circulation occurs with an increased fluid load.

Dr. Kassouf and the VeinMedic team are swollen-leg specialists, able to assist you with a diagnosis of the underlying cause of your edema as well as helping you with treatment and lifestyle planning to minimize the effects of fluid retention on your life. Don’t ignore persistent swelling. Call the closest office or request an appointment through the online tool above.  

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