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Ask Dr. Wishnew: Is leg swelling something I should worry about?

Swelling is when a part of your body increases in size. The medical term for swelling is edema. Swelling can occur in the skin, joints and other tissues and organs of your body. There are several reasons for swelling, with some being more treatable than others. The most common condition associated with leg swelling is chronic venous insufficiency.

When Veins Are to Blame

Damaged valves can cause venous insufficiency in the veins of the leg that are not able to close completely. This partial closure allows blood to flow backward away from the heart and pool in the legs. The result is leg swelling, as excess fluid escapes into the tissues of the legs and feet. It is a serious circulatory disorder that usually becomes worse over time.

This painful condition can result in disability, pain, leg fatigue and occasionally wounds. In addition, the pooled blood can cause skin changes, with the leg turning brown or red over time. Prolonged standing and sitting, increased salt consumption, pregnancy and especially by weight gain and obesity, can make the condition worsen. Another common finding with venous insufficiency is varicose veins.

We can treat venous insufficiency resulting from faulty valves with compression therapy, leg elevation and ablation, or closure of the leaky vein.

When Veins Are Not to Blame

If the veins are not the problem, the swelling may be caused by lymphedema. For a variety of reasons, fluid leaks into the tissues, causing swelling. The lymph system drains fluid from within your tissues to be filtered by the lymph nodes.

The lymphatic system may not be able to drain the extra fluid, resulting in lymphedema of the affected areas. Removal of or damage to your lymph nodes as a part of cancer treatment is often the culprit. However, it can also result from a blockage in your lymphatic system at the groin due to obesity, weight gain or surgery. The blockage prevents lymph fluid from draining well, and the fluid buildup eventually leads to swelling.

Lymphedema is also treated with compression therapy generally applied as wraps and pumps by physical or occupational therapists certified in treating the condition.

These two conditions can occur separately but commonly occur together. In addition, the chronic swelling from either condition can damage the veins and lymph vessels, perpetuating each condition.
Swelling can also be caused by heart and kidney failure, but these conditions require specialized attention by your physician for management.

The Vein Center at Lam Vascular & Associates: We are Here for You

At The Vein Center, we are your trusted resource for helping you fully understand your options and, with guidance from Dr. Jenna Wishnew, choose the right treatment for you.
This state-of-the-art facility is dedicated entirely to the diagnosis and minimally invasive treatment of venous conditions. An evaluation at The Vein Center at Lam Vascular & Associates is non-invasive and is the best way to know the health of your veins.

Schedule your evaluation at The Vein Center at Lam Vascular & Associates today.


The information contained in this website is neither intended to dictate what constitutes reasonable, appropriate or best care for any given health issue, nor is it intended to be used as a substitute for the independent judgment of a physician for any given health issue. Patient results will vary based on risk factors, age, disease and medical history. Please seek physician's advice. Like any procedure, it may come with benefits, risks or side effects associated. Click here for additional information.

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