Leg Swelling: Causes and Treatment

Leg swelling is a disease that can develop due to many conditions. People may visually notice this swelling or may state that their socks are tight and that they have difficulty wearing trousers. Leg swelling may occur as a result of edema, that is, fluid retention. In this case, there is more fluid in the veins or other tissues in the leg than there should be.

What Causes Leg Swelling?

Edema formation in the leg may occur due to sitting or standing for long periods of time, or it may develop due to some medical disorders. Another condition that causes leg swelling is inflammation. Causes such as muscle, tendon rupture or joint inflammation may cause inflammatory swelling in the leg.

Swelling in the leg occurs through two basic mechanisms: edema or inflammation. While some diseases cause swelling by causing edema, that is, fluid retention, others cause swelling by causing inflammation. Disorders that cause edema and swelling in one or both legs can be listed as follows:

Heart failure 

This disorder, in which the heart cannot fully perform its function of pumping blood, causes edema in the body, especially in the legs. Other symptoms due to heart failure: These can be listed as shortness of breath, fatigue and cough.

Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)

Deep vein thrombosis is a blood clot in the leg veins. This clot, called thrombosis, can break away from its location and travel to the lung. If the clot travels to the lungs, it is called pulmonary embolism, and this situation creates a serious condition that can be life-threatening. Deep vein thrombosis usually causes hard swelling in one leg. In addition to swelling, it may cause symptoms such as tenderness in the leg, cramps, increased temperature, and color change to red or blue. People showing symptoms of DVT should contact the nearest health center without delay.

Varicose Veins or Venous Insufficiency

Normally, there are valve-like structures in the veins in the leg. These valves ensure that blood from the legs goes towards the heart and does not flow back towards the lower parts of the body. However, when dysfunction occurs in these valves, blood escapes to the back of the valve and begins to pool in this area. Pooled blood creates the appearance of bluish-purple varicose veins on the leg. Varicose veins are among the conditions that cause swelling in the leg veins. In addition, it may cause pain in the leg due to sitting or standing for a long time.

Kidney Disorders

In long-term kidney diseases, a serious deterioration in kidney functions occurs. The kidney becomes unable to filter waste materials and excess water from the body. As a result of this situation, fluid accumulation occurs in the body. Accumulated fluid causes swelling, especially in the arms and legs. In kidney diseases, patients also experience symptoms such as nausea, fatigue, shortness of breath, and excessive thirst. Although acute kidney failure is a sudden, short-term illness, it can cause swelling in the legs.

Pregnancy

In the late stages of pregnancy, with the increase in the size of the baby, the pressure on the veins in the legs increases. This may cause blood circulation to slow down, leading to soft swelling in the leg. If the pregnant woman experiences symptoms such as severe headache, visual impairment, and swelling around the eyes in addition to leg swelling, the nearest health center should be consulted and the necessary tests should be performed to eliminate the suspicion of preeclampsia (pregnancy poisoning).

Conditions that cause inflammation in the leg and cause swelling are as follows:

Arthritis or Other Joint Disorders

Osteoarthritis, commonly known as arthritis, can cause swelling in the legs. Rheumatoid arthritis, a rheumatic disease, can also cause inflammation and swelling around the joints. Joint diseases such as gout and knee bursitis are also among the causes of leg swelling.

injuries 

Reactions develop in the body as a result of injuries such as ankle sprains and bone fractures. This reaction allows white blood cells and some body fluids to migrate to the injury site, thus speeding up the healing process. As a natural result of this, swelling occurs in the injured area. One of the injuries that causes swelling in the leg is the rupture of the Achilles tendon. The Achilles tendon connects the calf muscles to the heel bone and is the largest tendon in the body. If a tear occurs in this tendon while walking, running or jumping, swelling may occur at the back of the leg. Anterior cruciate ligament injuries can also cause swelling in the leg. The anterior cruciate ligament passes through the front of the knee and serves to stabilize the leg bones. Damage to this ligament can cause pain and swelling in the leg.

Cellulite

Cellulitis is a serious infection caused by various bacteria, especially Streptococcus and Staphylococcus, entering the body through a crack in the skin. Cellulite is most common in the lower legs. This infection causes symptoms such as swelling, tenderness, pain, increased temperature, red spots, blisters, and pitting in the leg. If, in addition to these symptoms in the legs, the person has symptoms such as fever and sudden deterioration in general condition, it would be beneficial to apply to the nearest health center without delay.

Infection and Wound

In cases of minor cuts or abrasions on the leg, a slight swelling may be observed in the leg. This situation will resolve itself within a few weeks at the latest. However, if the wound becomes infected, swelling in the leg increases and the patient may experience other symptoms in addition to swelling. In such a case, the situation should not be expected to improve spontaneously and a doctor should be consulted.

Which Department Should You Go to for Leg Swelling Treatment?

If a person with leg swelling has one or more symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest pain, difficulty breathing, dizziness, fainting and coughing up blood, the person should immediately contact the emergency room . These symptoms may be a sign of a serious heart or lung condition and the person may need urgent intervention.

If leg swelling develops suddenly without any apparent reason, you should seek medical attention. Leg swelling that occurs as a result of accidents, injuries, or injuries should also be treated urgently. If leg swelling occurs in only one leg and there are symptoms such as paleness, whitening, or coldness in the swollen leg, you should also seek medical attention.

Leg swelling may occur due to different reasons, and each cause falls under the expertise of a different department. While causes such as heart failure, varicose veins and DVT are within the scope of the cardiology department, the gynecology department deals with leg swelling during pregnancy. While kidney diseases fall within the field of nephrology , conditions such as sprains and fractures fall within the field of orthopedics.

If the person has a mild swelling that does not cause a need to go to the emergency room, it would be useful to consult a family doctor first. The family physician provides appropriate guidance by looking at the person’s leg swelling and any accompanying symptoms.

Causes such as swelling between the legs, swelling and tenderness behind and in front of the legs may not always be severe enough to require medical attention. Simple leg swelling can be relieved with home remedies. These methods;

  • Restricting salt consumption,
  • Placing a pillow or cushion-like height under the feet while lying down,
  • Wearing elastic compression stockings,
  • If you are standing or sitting for a long time, taking a break and changing your position may be a good option.

However, if swelling still persists despite these methods, the nearest health center should be consulted.

It should not be forgotten that leg swelling may occur due to serious reasons. If the person’s swelling does not resolve on its own in a short time, necessary checks should be performed.

Abbas Jahangir

I am a researcher and writer with a background in food and nutritional science. I am the founder of Foodstrend.com, our reputable online platform offering scientifically-backed articles on health, food, nutrition, kitchen tips, recipes, diet, and fitness. With a commitment to providing accurate and reliable information, we strive to empower our readers to make informed decisions about their health and lifestyle choices. Join us on Foodstrend.com's journey toward a healthier and happier lifestyle.

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