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What's Causing My Legs to Swell?

What's Causing My Legs to Swell?

A leg can swell up for any number of reasons, such as an injury or infection. When both legs are puffy and there’s no obvious trauma or event that led to the symptom, it may be related to your cardiovascular health.

Nearly half of adults in the United States have some form of cardiovascular disease and, while symptoms can vary depending upon the exact condition, leg swelling is a possibility in several.

To explain how leg swelling is related to your cardiovascular health, Dr. Madaiah Revana and the team here at Humble Cardiology Associates present the following information.

Behind the swelling

Medically known as edema, swelling in your legs is caused by excess fluid in your tissues, which usually gathers in the lower points, specifically around your feet, ankles, and lower legs.

For example, if you go on a long flight or take a long drive, your legs might swell in response to the prolonged inactivity, which allows blood to pool in your lower extremities. This type of edema typically clears quickly as soon as you’re able to move around.

Another common driver of edema is pregancy. As the fetus grows, it places more pressure on the blood vessels that lead to and from the legs, which causes blood to pool. Here again, the edema is temporary and should clear up after childbirth.

While these are perfectly benign causes of edema, leg swelling can signal more serious problems with your cardiovascular health.

Cardiovascular-related leg swelling

When it comes to leg swelling related to cardiovascular issues, there are several potential culprits, including:

Chronic venous insufficiency 

This vascular issue is what lies behind varicose veins, and it’s quite common, especially as you age. The veins in your legs are tasked with delivering deoxygenated blood back up to your heart. To help overcome the distance and gravity, your veins feature one-way valves that shut off as blood travels through to keep it going in the right direction. If these valves weaken and don’t close all the way, blood can back up in your lower legs and lead to varicose veins.

Nonthrombotic iliac venous lesions

Your external iliac veins are found in your pelvis and, should they narrow due to lesions, it can lead to the backup of blood in your legs and leg swelling.

Deep vein thrombosis

If you have a clot in one of the deep veins in your legs, it can lead to swelling in the affected leg.

Congestive heart failure

Heart failure occurs when your heart muscle becomes increasingly unable to pump blood efficiently. As a result, blood may back up in your legs and lead to leg swelling. When you have heart failure, your kidneys aren’t filtering your blood as well, which can lead to more water retention in your body.

Please note that some of these cardiovascular issues come with other signs, such as leg pain, fatigue, and difficulty breathing (becoming easily winded).

Addressing leg swelling

If you’re experiencing persistent leg swelling, we urge you to come see us so we can evaluate the problem. Once we identify the underlying cause of your leg swelling, we can provide you with a treatment plan to reduce the swelling.

To find out what’s causing your leg swelling, schedule an appointment with us at one of our two offices in Humble or Houston, Texas. To get started, simply click here.

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