You look down at your legs and they are puffy and seem larger than life. Swollen legs can occur for a number of reasons, and the exact cause of them varies. While many instances of leg swelling aren’t a cause of concern, there are some cases when having swollen legs can signal a serious condition. Usually, if the swelling is accompanied by pain or trouble breathing, or if the swelling persists for a long period of time, you’ll want to speak to a doctor. Understanding the more common causes of leg swelling can help you decide what to do about it.
Common Causes of Swollen Legs
Venous insufficiency means that the veins in your legs aren’t able to pump blood back up to the heart as well as they should. When someone has venous insufficiency, the walls and valves in certain veins are damaged. According to the National Institutes of Health, an insufficiency causes the blood to pool in the veins, leading to varicose veins and swelling. A number of varicose vein treatment options, from wearing compression stockings to vein ablation, can help improve the function of the veins and reduce swelling.
Sitting or Standing for Extended Periods
In some cases, sitting or standing for a long period can lead to a build-up of fluid in the legs and to swelling. It’s not uncommon for people to notice some swelling after they’ve been on a plane for a long time or if they have a job that requires standing in one place for hours. Usually, swollen legs related to long periods of sitting and standing aren’t a major cause for concern. If you do have swelling after a flight or after standing for hours, you can help minimize it by drinking lots of water, by moving your feet and legs every so often, and by wearing loose clothing. Compression stockings can also help reduce swelling connected to staying still for long periods.
A Blood Clot
Persistent swelling in the legs might be a sign of a serious issue, namely a blood clot. A blood clot can block a vein or it can break free and travel to the lungs, where it can cause a blockage known as a pulmonary embolism. If your legs are swollen, red, and you feel pain, it’s a good idea to see your doctor for a diagnosis. If you have swelling in the legs and are having trouble breathing, you’ll want to go the emergency room, as the difficulty breathing can mean that you have a clot deep in your veins which can potentially travel to your lungs.
When leg swelling is related to varicose veins, a number of treatments are available. To learn more about your vein treatment options, contact Dr. Nordine Gaugau and the McLean Vein & Wellness Center for a consultation today.