Leg Swelling Q & A
by: Ameeta Walia, DO, FACC, FASE
Why Does Leg Swelling Happen?
Leg swelling happens because there is either fluid retention in the legs (peripheral edema) or because there is inflammation within the leg tissue. Fluid retention in the legs is usually the result of issues within the circulatory system, the lymphatic system, or even the kidneys. Some of the many possible causes of peripheral edema include Kidney failure, heart disease, cirrhosis, deep vein thrombosis, heart failure, a blood clot in the leg, or venous insufficiency. When the leg swelling occurs due to inflammation, it is often a response to a disease, disorder, or injury. The causes of leg swelling due to inflammation may include Rupture of the Achilles tendon, an ACL tear, gout, bursitis in the knee, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis. Broken bones, sprains, and strains can also cause leg swelling due to inflammation.
When Does Leg Swelling Require Medical Care?
Patients should seek medical help if they experience symptoms including chest pain, inability to breathe freely, dizzy spells, loss of consciousness, or disorientation. If the leg swelling appears to have no obvious cause, it’s best to contact the doctor immediately to determine whether an appointment is necessary.
How Can Patients Alleviate Leg Swelling?
There may be several ways that patients can help alleviate leg swelling at home once they’ve seen the doctor for treatment. The doctor may recommend solutions such as placing a pillow under the legs when in bed, taking regular breaks to stay in motion, and sticking to a strict regimen for any prescribed medications. If the leg swelling occurs because of controllable factors, the patient may need to make some lifestyle changes. For example, heart disease patients who suffer from leg swelling will need to achieve a normal weight, eat a healthy diet, and get regular exercise to improve their heart health. Leg swelling can often be controlled very effectively when the underlying factors are addressed medically.