Your legs can swell for many reasons, which is why it’s essential to seek medical attention if it’s happening to you. Some underlying causes are nothing to worry about, such as standing on your feet too long. Other causes are more serious, such as insufficient blood flow to your extremities.
At Dallas Vein Institute and Texas Vascular Institute, located in Dallas and Hurst, Texas, interventional radiologist Dr. Dev Batra and his staff see many cases of leg swelling, medically known as edema.
While it’s true that many factors can lead to swelling, one of the most common is venous insufficiency, sluggish and inadequate blood flow. That’s why it’s essential to come into the office for an evaluation, so we can determine if this early stage of vein disease is at the root of your problems.
Your arteries carry oxygenated blood from the heart to the rest of the body. Your veins return the deoxygenated blood to the heart and lungs. It sounds simple, but there’s a catch when it comes to the venous side of things — the veins have to carry the blood against the pull of gravity.
The body has adopted two techniques to ensure the flow is sufficient and uninterrupted. First, the muscles in your thighs and calves contract as the blood comes through, pushing it on its way. Second, the veins contain small valves that only allow the blood to flow in one direction.
If the veins or valves are damaged, blood can backtrack along its path, and it tends to pool around the weakened area, leading to sluggish flow. That state of flow is termed venous insufficiency since it’s insufficient to maintain proper circulation. And because the blood has time to pool, you get swelling in your leg from the increased pressure.
Varicose veins are a direct consequence of venous insufficiency. They appear as colored, ropy protrusions, usually on the legs. The protrusions are due to the increased pressure in superficial veins — those close to the skin’s surface — and they’re colored because of the stagnant blood. Varicose veins can also leak fluid into the surrounding tissues, causing more swelling.
Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is another stage of vein disease that both leads to and is caused by venous insufficiency. Blood clots can develop in the deep veins in the leg, further impeding blood flow. As if an insufficient circulatory system weren’t enough, DVT can be dangerous because pieces of the clot — or the whole thing — can break off and travel to the lungs.
There, it can get lodged, a condition known as a pulmonary embolism. That can be a life-threatening situation and must be treated immediately. Preventing clots from forming in the first place is key to avoiding the problem. That’s why you should get your edema looked at sooner rather than later.
Some other reasons your legs may swell include:
That is why it’s essential to seek medical attention for leg swelling; proper diagnosis is the key to proper treatment.
Dr. Batra relies on two tests to effectively diagnose vein disease, a venogram that uses an IV contrast agent to highlight your blood vessels on an X-ray, and a duplex ultrasound that uses sound waves to probe the vein structure.
If either of these tests indicates that your veins or their valves are damaged, Dr. Batra can diagnose your leg swelling as being caused by venous insufficiency. If you also have varicose veins, they’re a visual indicator of the same underlying problem.
Dr. Batra can treat your leg swelling and varicose veins in several ways, including:
He bases his decision on your medical history, a physical examination, the severity of your symptoms, and the results of the imaging tests.
If your legs swell off and on, should you be alarmed? Better to be safe and come to Dallas Vein Institute and Texas Vascular Institute for an evaluation and proper treatment. Give us a call at either of our locations or book your appointment online today.