Leg Swelling: When to See a Doctor

  • Posted on: Dec 5 2022
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Minor leg swelling is relatively common and easily treated with a bit of rest and elevation. However, swollen legs and ankles sometimes signify a more significant medical issue and require prompt medical attention. 

At Cardiovascular Wellness in Hicksville and Lake Success, New York, we work with patients navigating all types of cardiovascular concerns, including leg swelling. Our expert team of cardiologists offers both acute and ongoing care depending on each patient’s needs.

It’s often difficult to determine whether your leg swelling is typical or requires a doctor’s care. Here are some of the different types of swelling and which symptoms should be evaluated by a medical professional. 

What are the common causes of leg swelling?

Typically, leg swelling occurs due to fluid buildup or retention or inflammation due to an injury or condition. After an injury, the body’s healing response sends fluid to the affected area to protect it and help repair injured tissue. 

Mild leg swelling may occur in patients after an extended period of sitting or standing, such as a long flight. Other causes of occasional, temporary leg swelling include inactivity, tight stockings or shoes, and being overweight.

Women may also experience mild leg swelling days before their menstrual cycle begins or in the later stages of pregnancy.

What are the dangerous causes of leg swelling?

Medical concerns keep the body from circulating blood and fluid properly, especially in the areas furthest from the heart, like the legs, hands, and feet. Swelling due to poor circulation is called peripheral edema. Peripheral edema is often caused by illnesses involving the heart, circulatory system, or kidneys.

Some of the conditions that cause peripheral edema include:

  • Heart disease or heart failure
  • Blood clots
  • Infections
  • Kidney disease or damage
  • Liver disease or damage
  • Lymphedema
  • Venous insufficiency
  • Deep vein thrombosis (DVT)
  • Allergic reactions

While edema, or swelling, isn’t typically a serious condition by itself, it often signifies that a patient has an underlying medical concern. 

When would I need to see a doctor for leg swelling?

Leg swelling can be a cause for concern, or a medical emergency, depending on your symptoms. If you experience the following symptoms, call your physician immediately:

  • Sudden leg swelling with no known cause
  • Painful leg swelling in one leg with cool, pale skin
  • Swelling with blistering or redness
  • Chronic swelling that doesn’t reduce with home remedies
  • Sudden or severe swelling while pregnant
  • Leg swelling and a swollen abdomen
  • Leg swelling that continues to worsen
  • Leg swelling with a fever
  • Any new leg swelling if you have a liver, kidney, or heart condition

If any of the following symptoms accompany your leg swelling, then call 911 to receive emergency help immediately:

  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pressure or tightness
  • Coughing blood
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Fainting

The above symptoms can signify a life-threatening condition when combined with leg swelling.

How to Alleviate Mild Leg Swelling at Home

Mild leg swelling will often dissipate with some extra care at home. If you’re prone to leg swelling, you can reduce swelling by cutting back on salt in your diet, taking frequent movement breaks, and investing in a pair of good elastic compression stockings. 

While compression stockings should be snug, they shouldn’t be so tight they leave a mark on your skin from the elastic at the top. 

If you’re experiencing mild leg swelling, try to elevate your legs above your heart by placing a pillow under your legs as you lie down. You can also try some gentle leg exercises to pump the blood and fluid from your legs back to your heart. 

Consult a Professional

Patients experiencing chronic leg swelling or who have symptoms with their leg swelling that are cause for concern should seek the care of a medical professional, like the skilled team at Cardiovascular Wellness. Our convenient locations are in Lake Success and Hicksville, New York, serving all of Nassau County.

Schedule an appointment with Cardiovascular Wellness today to understand and treat your leg swelling or other cardiovascular concerns.

Posted in: Leg Swelling

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