Most of us have swelling at some point, maybe from a bee sting, a sunburn, or even an allergic reaction. Edema is a less common type of swelling that usually affects your legs — and it can be a sign of a serious underlying medical problem called chronic venous insufficiency.
At TLC Medical Group Inc., Anthony B. Lewis MD, FACC, and his team diagnose and manage edema using state-of-the-art approaches aimed at relieving swelling and improving your circulatory health. Here’s what to do if you have edema in your feet or legs.
Edema happens when fluid gets trapped inside your skin and other tissues. The trapped fluid causes swelling. Although edema can happen anywhere in your body, it’s more common in your extremities — your feet, ankles, lower legs, and hands.
Edema has several causes, including:
- Chronic venous insufficiency
- Heart, liver, or kidney disease
- Sitting for long periods
- Diet very high in sodium
- Certain medications
- Allergic reactions
One way to distinguish between edema and other swelling is to gently push on the area with one finger for about five seconds or so. If the swelling is caused by trapped fluids (edema), you’ll likely notice a small dimple in the area after you remove your finger.
Edema and your veins
When edema happens in your feet and ankles, it’s often due to chronic venous insufficiency (CVI). CVI typically occurs when tiny valves inside your veins malfunction and no longer push blood back toward your heart. The change in circulation allows fluids to accumulate, leading to edema.
Edema caused by CVI may be accompanied by varicose veins or spider veins in your legs or feet. Your legs may feel heavy or tired out.
Sometimes, the skin over the area stretches and weakens. It might look shiny or itch a lot.
Because the thin is stretched taut, scratching or rubbing the area could damage skin, causing little cuts or sores. Without medical treatment, you can develop nerve damage or infections from sores that won’t heal.
What to do about edema
If you have edema in your legs, our team will evaluate your symptoms and use ultrasound imaging to assess your vein health. When CVI or another vein problem is to blame, Dr. Lewis recommends treatment based on each patient’s unique needs.
Conservative treatment options
For patients with minor edema and few or no other symptoms, Dr. Lewis frequently recommends conservative options, like:
- Compression stockings
- Low-sodium diet
- Increased exercise to improve leg health
- Weight loss to take strain off your leg veins
Moderate to severe edema and edema involving pain or other symptoms usually requires a more aggressive approach.
Sclerotherapy uses injections of a special chemical solution to close off damaged veins so circulation can be rerouted to neighboring veins. Over time, the damaged vein will be absorbed by your body.
Radiofrequency ablation works in a similar way, but instead of using injections, this treatment uses targeted energy to heat damaged veins, causing them to collapse. Blood flow is rerouted to other veins.
Phlebectomy is a minimally invasive procedure that uses tiny incisions to access and remove damaged veins. Dr. Lewis is skilled in multiple phlebectomy techniques, so you can feel confident he’ll recommend the best one for you.
Don’t ignore swollen legs
Swollen legs are more than just an annoyance. They can lead to serious medical problems, like nerve damage, infections, and dangerous leg ulcers, a common cause of lower limb amputations. To learn more about edema treatments at our TLC Medical Group in Port St. Lucie, Florida, call or book an appointment online today.