Swelling in Your Legs? It Could Be a Cardiovascular Issue

Swollen legs are usually harmless — albeit annoying and sometimes uncomfortable — but sometimes, swelling in the legs can signal an underlying health problem. In this article, Dr. Erick Calderon, cardiovascular health specialist at Lakewood Cardiovascular Consultants in Sarasota County, Florida, explains common causes of leg swelling and when you should see a doctor. 

Why do legs swell? 

Swelling in your legs, feet, and ankles can occur due to a number of reasons. Often, leg swelling is harmless, but sometimes it indicates a health problem, including cardiovascular issues. 

Sedentary behavior

Sitting or standing in the same position for too long (such as at a desk for work) can lead to swelling in your lower legs. When you remain sedentary for too long, blood and other fluids may pool in your blood vessels. A quick walk or some stretching should help, and you can try wearing compression socks during the day. 

Excess body weight 

Being overweight may lead to leg and ankle swelling due to increased pressure and decreased circulation throughout your body. 

Travel

Traveling, especially by airplane, may lead to temporary leg swelling. Altitude changes and sitting for long periods of time are like a double whammy to the legs. 

Hormone fluctuations

Women may experience leg swelling in response to fluctuations in progesterone and estrogen during their menstrual cycle, pregnancy, and/or menopause.

Blood clots

Blood clots in the legs can lead to leg swelling and, in serious cases, get swept into your bloodstream and reach the lungs, causing a pulmonary embolism (PE). 

Venous insufficiency 

Venous insufficiency occurs when your veins can’t circulate blood as they should, which causes blood to pool in your legs. In addition to swelling, venous insufficiency may lead to varicose and spider veins. 

Lymphedema 

This medical condition occurs when your lymphatic system doesn’t clear lymph fluid properly, leading to a buildup of fluid and blood in your limbs. 

Pregnancy and pregnancy complications

Pregnancy alone can cause swelling in your legs due to extra pressure on your circulatory system. However, swelling during pregnancy sometimes points to issues like preeclampsia, a pregnancy complication characterized by high blood pressure. 

When is leg swelling serious? 

Mild swelling with obvious causes, such as sitting for hours, isn’t a problem. To de-puff, simply move around to get your blood flowing again. Chronic swelling accompanied by pain, discomfort, or discoloration is reason enough to see a doctor. This is especially true if you can’t find an apparent cause behind your swelling. 

Struggling with swollen legs? Visit Dr. Calderon at Lakewood Cardiovascular Consultants in Bradenton and Sarasota County, Florida. Contact our heart health clinic by calling 941-404-7958, sending a message to the team, or requesting an appointment online.

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