Swelling of the lower legs is common since your body works against gravity to move fluids back to the heart. It’s likely not a problem if you have widely spaced episodes with a likely cause, such as hours of sitting or standing.
When leg swelling becomes persistent, it’s a symptom you should never ignore. You’re now dealing with potentially dangerous circulatory system problems with plenty of other potential health concerns.
Chronic peripheral edema is a significant reason to visit MD Vein & Skin Specialists in Columbia, Maryland. We can diagnose the underlying reasons for your leg swelling and develop a treatment plan that works for you.
Reasons behind swollen ankles and legs
Fluid retention in the lower legs has three potential non-heart related origins. Problems with the veins in your legs are the most likely culprits, though the kidneys and lymphatic system may also create edema.
Tasked with returning blood to the heart, veins contain valves along their length to stop the backward flow of blood, particularly important in your lower limbs.
The pressure of your heartbeat has little effect on the venous system. The pumping action comes from the muscles of your legs as you move, so long periods of inactivity, whether sitting or standing, affects your circulation and creates pressure build-up. When excessive pressure over time causes your valves to fail, blood starts to pool, a condition called venous insufficiency.
The effects of venous insufficiency are most pronounced in the lower legs; varicose and spider veins are the most common symptoms.
Deep vein thrombosis
Superficial veins near the skin’s surface create visible varicose veins. Deep veins can also encounter valve failure, though you can’t see them.
When blood pools, it increases your risk of a clot called a thrombus, which can further slow blood flow from the legs, contributing to swelling. Should the thrombus break loose and travel through the bloodstream to your lungs, it becomes a potentially deadly pulmonary embolism. Even if an embolism doesn’t occur, episodes of deep vein thrombosis could lead to chronic blockages in the legs.
Other contributors to edema
Some reasons for swelling may not originate with the veins of the legs. Congestive heart failure and other forms of heart disease can create an excess of fluid retention throughout your body, which, due to gravity, settles in your legs. Other conditions cause similar results. These include:
- Kidney, liver, or lung disorders
- High body mass
- Reactions to medication
- Complications of other conditions, like arthritis, stroke, or a sedentary lifestyle
The causes of swelling in the legs can be missed or misdiagnosed. When you have persistent leg swelling, choose a practice with experience in venous and lymphatic conditions, like MD Vein & Skin Specialists. Led by Dermatologist & Phlebologist Dr. Clement Banda, we have the expertise to help you overcome this potentially dangerous condition. Call or click to schedule your exam and consultation today.