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7 Causes of Swollen Legs

Does it feel like you’re carrying around ankle weights because your legs feel heavy — and they’re swollen? Any time you see a change in your body, it’s time to investigate. You want to know if it’s something minor you can treat at home or if you’re on the cusp of a serious condition. 

Swollen legs can result simply from sitting or standing for too long. However, they can also be a sign that you have a condition that needs prompt medical attention. The swelling could signal a venous circulation or lymphatic problem, a problem with your liver or kidneys, or even heart failure, although it’s likely you’d have other symptoms as well if it’s a problem with your heart. 

Dr. Carol White, vascular specialist and board-certified physician with Dr. White's Vein Center and Morgantown SculpSure & Clear Ink, PLLC, in Morgantown, West Virginia, diagnoses and treats individuals with swollen legs frequently, as the condition has many etiologies and is a common complaint. She gets to the root cause of your swollen legs quickly, so your treatment can begin. Following are common causes of swollen legs. 

1. Primary or secondary lymphedema 

Lymphedema means that your body isn’t draining fluid from your lymph system adequately; the lymph nodes aren’t working properly and fluid builds in the tissues — in this case, in your legs and ankles. Primary lymphedema is a rare genetic condition caused by the way the lymph system developed in your body. 

Secondary lymphedema is the more common type of lymphedema. Cancer and cancer treatment can cause this condition when lymph nodes are removed during surgery or are damaged from radiation. 

2. Venous insufficiency 

As you age, sometimes the valves in your legs that control blood flow don’t open and close properly. In that case, your veins can’t carry enough blood from your legs up to your heart. Venous insufficiency is what happens when blood flows downward and is trapped in your legs and ankles, making them swell. 

3. Deep vein thrombosis 

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a life-threatening condition that requires immediate treatment. A clot forms in one or more veins deep within your leg. It’s dangerous, because the clot can become dislodged, travel upward, and get trapped in your lung, causing a pulmonary embolism. You may have pain and swelling, but sometimes DVT doesn’t give any warning signs. You’re more prone to DVT if you’ve had an accident or surgery and have been inactive for a period of time. 

4. Sedentary lifestyle 

Are you a couch potato most of the time? It’s never too late to start exercising, which yields benefits at any age. If you’re sedentary most of the time, less blood flows to your legs and ankles. Your water retention increases, and your legs swell. 

5. Standing or sitting too long 

If you’re normally active but you’re sitting on a long plane fight, your legs might swell. As long as you have no other symptoms and it disappears, this is nothing to worry about. 

6. Pregnancy

Swollen legs are a common complaint for pregnant women. Your body has extra fluid with nowhere to go. You’ll notice the swelling increases as the pregnancy progresses, as well as at the end of a long, hot day.

7. Obesity 

Researchers have recently found that you’re at greater risk of lymphedema and swollen legs if your BMI is more than 60. This is one of the many health conditions associated with obesity. 

Dr. White first performs tests to correctly diagnose the cause of your swollen legs. Then she suggests a treatment plan and lifestyle modifications which can help control or eliminate the swelling, as well as relieve your discomfort and improve your overall health. 

If you’re ready to get to the bottom of what’s causing your painful, swollen legs, call our office or request an appointment online today. 

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