Leg Swelling: When Does It Indicate Something More Serious?



An injury, inflamed joints or tissues, fluid buildup, or prolonged standing or sitting can cause leg or ankle swelling. A swollen leg can appear larger than normal, causing difficulty in walking, chest pain, dizziness, and more. Determining the cause of leg swelling can help prevent more serious diseases from developing.

Causes and Treatment of Leg Swelling

Cellulitis

Cellulitis, a bacterial skin infection, can cause warm skin, redness, and swelling that spreads quickly. 

Antibiotics can treat this condition. However, visit your doctor if the swelling does not subside or worsens even after treatment. 

Chronic Venous Insufficiency (CVI)

CVI affects the leg vein valves that carry blood to the heart causing it to malfunction. Due to this, some of the blood will flow backward and collect in the ankles and lower legs, thus causing swelling. 

Treatment options for CVI are:

  • Keeping your legs elevated to improve blood flow
  • Wearing compression stockings to reduce swelling
  • Medications like aspirin
  • Undergoing radiofrequency ablation that uses heat to close the affected vein

Foot or Ankle Injury

An inflammation followed by an ankle or foot injury can cause swelling. 

An ankle sprain, a very common foot injury, can be treated at home by:

  • Elevating the foot above the waist
  • Wearing an ankle brace
  • Applying a compression wrap or ice in a thin cloth for 20 minutes 

Blood Clots

A blood clot, also referred to as deep vein thrombosis, in a leg vein can affect the blood flow to the heart, allowing blood to flow back and pool in the legs, thus causing swelling. A DVT might need urgent medical attention.

It can be treated by:

  • Elevating the affected leg
  • Taking blood thinners or anticoagulant medications 
  • Wearing compression stockings to promote blood flow
  • Undergoing a stent procedure, where a stent is inserted into the vein to keep it open

Pregnancy

Swelling during pregnancy is caused by hormonal changes and pressure on veins due to the extra weight of your uterus.

Swollen legs during pregnancy might also indicate preeclampsia. It’s a life-threatening condition where the blood pressure and protein levels in the urine are dangerously high and requires immediate medical attention. This condition can occur during the 2nd or 3rd trimester of pregnancy or 6 weeks after giving birth. 

Here are tips to ease leg swelling during pregnancy:

  • Eat potassium-rich foods, reduce salt intake, and avoid caffeine 
  • Wear comfortable shoes and support stockings
  • Elevate the feet when resting
  • Avoid prolonged standing
  • Apply a cold compress
  • Wear shoes that feel comfortable and not too tight
  • Avoid spending too much time outdoors in the hot weather

Liver Disease

Low albumin levels (a protein produced by a healthy liver to prevent fluid leak) caused as a result of liver disease can cause fluid buildup in the legs resulting in swelling.

Treatments include: 

  • Exercising regularly 
  • Avoiding alcohol
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Limiting salt intake

Chronic Kidney Disease

During end-stage renal disease, kidneys cannot remove waste and extra fluid from the body, causing fluid buildup that leads to swelling.

Here are tips to help prevent kidney disease:

  • Quit smoking
  • Limit alcohol
  • Reduce salt and fat in your diet
  • Maintain healthy blood sugar levels
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Exercise 30 minutes a day
  • Maintain a healthy blood pressure 

Other conditions which can cause leg swelling are:

  • Medications
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Lymphedema 

Schedule an appointment with North Atlanta Vascular Clinic and Vein Center if you are experiencing leg swelling or its symptoms. We offer the most effective leg swelling treatment in Johns Creek, GA, and surrounding areas. 

Are Swollen Legs Serious?

Leg swelling can sometimes it can indicate a serious disorder such as deep-vein thrombosis or heart disease. Consult with a medical professional if your swelling is persistent or causes pain.


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North Atlanta Vascular Clinic and Vein Center

North Atlanta Vascular Clinic is a vascular surgery center located in Johns Creek, Cumming, Roswell, and Lawrenceville, Georgia. We stand out in professionalism and kindness. Our expert doctors and health care providers are known for their clinical excellence, experience, and can help you with the care you need. Our vein disease specialists offer a comprehensive examination that includes a physical examination, review of your symptoms, and discussion of your medical history. We use advanced venography techniques and provide effective treatment for several health conditions like DVT, Spider Veins, Leg Cramps, MTS, and more. Visit our website, connect with us on social media, or contact us to get accurate diagnosis and treatment for all your vascular diseases.

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