Now accepting Telehealth appointments. Schedule a virtual visit.
Skip to main content

You Should Never Ignore Lower Extremity Swelling: Here’s Why

You Should Never Ignore Lower Extremity Swelling: Here’s Why

There are many reasons you might have swelling in your lower legs, ankles, and feet, but they’re all associated with one of two primary causes: inflammation or edema.

Swelling caused by inflammation arises after you sustain an injury. Edema swelling is a fluid buildup in your legs or abdomen.

Fluid accumulation in your legs often signals a serious heart or blood vessel condition. That’s why you should never ignore lower extremity swelling.

Kishore K. Arcot, MD, FACC, at Memphis Vein Center, specializes in identifying the reason for your leg swelling and providing prompt treatment that targets the underlying problem and restores vascular health. Here, he explains why you may have leg swelling.

Common reasons for leg swelling

Fluids often build up in your legs when you sit or stand for a long time. Staying inactive slows circulation in your legs, especially in the venous and lymphatic vessels, allowing fluids to accumulate.

Inactivity can cause edema without an underlying vein problem. But when inactivity slows circulation, you’re at risk of developing blood clots in your legs.

Being overweight hinders circulation and causes leg swelling. Certain medications, including corticosteroids, estrogen, antidepressants, and blood pressure medicine, may also cause leg edema.

If you have frequent edema or swelling that doesn’t improve, it’s time to schedule a vascular exam and let us determine the underlying cause.

Chronic venous insufficiency (CVI)

CVI occurs when damaged valves inside your leg veins let blood flow in the wrong direction. The valves usually keep blood moving up the leg veins. But when a valve fails, some blood refluxes and accumulates in the vein instead of returning to your heart, causing CVI.

The earliest signs of CVI are varicose veins and lower extremity swelling. CVI also increases the blood pressure in your lower leg.

As the pressure forces blood and fluids out of the veins, you may develop lower leg symptoms, such as skin changes (a red, itchy rash and/or leathery, discolored skin) and leg ulcers (venous ulcers).

Venous ulcers are shallow wounds that seldom cause pain, but they don’t heal without professional medical care. Instead, they keep enlarging, putting you at risk for skin and bone infections.

Deep vein thrombosis

A thrombosis is a blood clot. When a clot develops in the deep leg veins, it's called deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Blood clots occur when sluggish circulation lets the blood thicken. 

DVTs become life-threatening if they break free, travel to your lungs, and block blood flow, a condition called pulmonary embolism.

Because DVTs are so dangerous, it’s essential to connect with us if you experience any of the following symptoms:

We treat DVTs with blood-thinning and anticoagulant medications and may recommend inserting a tiny filter into the vena cava (a central vein). The filter catches fragments of a DVT before they get to your lungs.

Heart disease

Blood backs up in your legs and causes swelling when heart disease prevents the heart muscles from pumping blood properly. The heart conditions most likely to cause leg swelling include heart failure, heart valve disease, and heart muscle problems (cardiomyopathy).

When heart disease contributes to lower extremity swelling, you may also have symptoms such as:

Heart disease may also cause abdominal swelling as fluids build up in the spaces around organs and tissues.

Other chronic diseases

Chronic kidney, liver, and lung diseases can all cause leg swelling by increasing vascular pressure, interfering with circulation, or affecting the body’s ability to remove excess fluids. Like heart disease, liver disease often causes abdominal edema.

Advanced treatments ease edema

You can depend on us for prompt treatments that repair the underlying problem, ranging from blood-thinning medications and intensive wound care to minimally invasive procedures that safely eliminate damaged valves and varicose veins.

Don’t wait to seek an evaluation for leg swelling. Call us at our Memphis, Tennessee, location or request an appointment online to get expert care that restores healthy circulation.

You Might Also Enjoy...

Is It Safe to Travel With Painful Varicose Veins?

Is It Safe to Travel With Painful Varicose Veins?

Varicose veins can ruin your travel plans just by causing pain. Beyond discomfort, painful varicose veins may indicate an underlying problem that could become a serious health threat due to traveling. Here’s what you should know.

5 Healthy Lifestyle Habits to Prevent or Treat PAD

Never underestimate the impact your lifestyle has on peripheral artery disease. Making lifestyle changes can prevent PAD or stop it from progressing if you already have the condition. Here’s what you should know to protect your health.
Why Is a DVT so Dangerous?

Why Is a DVT so Dangerous?

Without treatment, a deep vein thrombosis (DVT) can threaten your leg health and overall well-being. DVTs are also extremely dangerous, because they can lead to a sudden, life-threatening condition.