Leg swelling is a relatively common medical complaint, in part because so many issues can cause swelling. While some of those causes are benign, other times, swollen legs can be a sign of a more serious underlying medical problem — one that needs prompt treatment to prevent complications.
At his Port St. Lucie, Florida, practice, Anthony B. Lewis MD, FACC, and the team at TLC Medical Group use state-of-the-art diagnostic techniques to determine the cause of leg swelling, an important step that enables them to offer custom care solutions aimed at relieving symptoms and preventing serious problems. Here’s why having your swelling symptoms evaluated is vitally important for your overall health and wellness.
Why your legs are swollen
Leg swelling is typically widespread, affecting all or most of your lower leg, ankle, and foot. In those cases, swelling is likely due to one of two problems: inflammation or (more likely) fluid buildup.
Inflammation happens in response to an injury or infection. As your body fights off an infection or repairs damaged tissues, it produces fluids as a byproduct of those processes. That fluid collects in your leg tissues until your body (hopefully) carries it away.
Also called edema, this type of swelling happens when your body can’t dispose of fluids as quickly as it normally does. Some common causes of edema include sitting for long periods of time or spending a lot of time on your feet. Pregnancy also causes this type of leg swelling, and so does eating too much salt.
Another, more serious, underlying cause of edema is chronic venous insufficiency (CVI), a relatively common vascular problem that needs prompt medical treatment to avoid serious complications.
Chronic vascular insufficiency (CVI)
One of the most common causes of chronic leg swelling has to do with your veins — or more precisely, how your veins work. The primary purpose of your veins is to carry your blood back to your heart after it’s delivered oxygen and nutrients to the rest of your body. In your legs, your blood has the longest distance to travel back to your heart, and it does it against the pull of gravity.
Inside your veins, there’s a series of tiny valves. These valves open and close in quick succession to help keep your blood moving in the right direction. Sometimes, though, these veins malfunction. When that happens, blood flow slows down, and your blood starts to collect behind the valves, causing bulging, discoloration, and swelling, sometimes with other symptoms, like:
- Skin changes, including skin that damages easily
- Burning sensations
- “Crawling” sensations
- Leg fatigue
- Feeling of heaviness in your legs
- Varicose veins
CVI is also associated with an increased risk of restless leg syndrome, a condition that can keep you from getting a good night’s rest.
Treating leg swelling and CVI
CVI is more than “just” its symptoms. Without treatment, you can develop permanent problems in your legs and feet due to insufficient blood flow in these areas.
Changes in your skin can lead to leg ulcers, deep sores that are prone to infection. Ulcers can be very difficult to treat, and over time, these sores can lead to tissue death and lower limb amputation.
Before recommending treatment, Dr. Lewis evaluates your symptoms and examines your legs, using diagnostic imaging to assess blood flow in the area. Once CVI is confirmed, he’ll recommend a treatment based on your specific needs.
Treatments include state-of-the-art options, like:
- Radiofrequency ablation to seal off damaged veins
- Phlebectomy to remove the damaged vein
- Sclerotherapy to “collapse” the vein using injected solutions
If your swelling is mild, Dr. Lewis may recommend conservatie treatment options first, like losing weight, reducing your sodium intake, increasing your physical activity, or wearing compression stockings to give your veins a little help.
Don’t ignore your swollen legs
Leg swelling is more than annoying — it’s a sign that something’s wrong. Getting treatment at the first sign of leg swelling helps ensure you stay healthy and avoid potentially serious complications.
To learn what’s causing your leg swelling — and how Dr. Lewis can help relieve it — call 772-200-3840 or book an appointment online at TLC Medical Group today.