05.05.23 CVL Swelling

Signs A Swollen Leg is Vein-Related

Our legs go through a lot in life, so it should come as no surprise that they may swell up from time to time. While leg swelling can be common, it should never be ignored, especially when it becomes painful. Despite the fact that many things can lead to leg swelling, most of the time the cause is vein-related, so it’s important to monitor your symptoms in order to recover.

Below are common causes of swollen legs and when to be concerned.

● Varicose Veins: These are damaged and bulging veins caused by a condition called chronic venous insufficiency. This causes venous hypertension (increased pressure) in some of your leg veins, which can lead to fluids leaking into the soft tissue of your legs, resulting in swelling. What do varicose veins look like? Typically, they are bulging blue veins that appear twisted or “knotty”. Your legs may feel fine, or you could also experience related leg swelling, leg cramps, achy and heavy sensations, skin discoloration, and even leg ulcers.

Deep Vein Thrombosis: Commonly referred to as DVT, this condition occurs when a blood clot develops in a vein deep within the leg. Unlike varicose veins, the affected vein will not be visible, but pain and swelling often occur with a DVT. DVT has severe consequences if a piece of the clot breaks loose and reaches the lungs. This is called a pulmonary embolism and can be life-threatening. It’s critical to contact your physician immediately if you experience a sudden onset of swelling in one leg, pain that feels like cramping, red or otherwise discolored skin, or a warm-to-the-touch feeling in the affected leg. 

Chronic Venous Insufficiency: Chronic venous insufficiency is often the culprit and cause of varicose veins and their related symptoms. Veins contain one-way valves that help move the blood UP the legs. When we are active, muscles squeeze the leg veins and propel blood upward. When the muscles relax, the one-way valves in veins close and prevent the blood from flowing back down the leg. As we age, these valves can become broken or faulty, and blood is unable to return back up the vein to the heart and lungs. Instead, blood “pools” in the legs, increasing pressure within the faulty veins over time. This pressure eventually damages other connecting veins and ultimately can progress to varicose veins, leg swelling, aching, throbbing, skin changes, and ulcers. Family genetics, pregnancy, and weight gain can cause venous insufficiency. If you notice changes in your legs, especially if you have a family history of varicose veins, contact your physician for an evaluation. Early intervention is much easier than waiting until the issues progress. 

Lymphedema: Lymphedema refers to tissue swelling caused by an accumulation of protein-rich fluid that's usually drained through the body's lymphatic system. Lymph nodes and lymphatic vessels can be damaged at birth (primary lymphedema) or become damaged and less efficient due to age, obesity, trauma, chemotherapy, lymph node dissection, and other surgeries (secondary lymphedema). There is no magic treatment to cure lymphedema, but there are several things such as prescription compression, elevation, exercise, diet, massage therapy, manual lymphatic drainage, and sequential pump devices that can help manage and control swelling due to lymphedema.   

May-Thurner Syndrome: If swelling occurs specifically in your left leg, you may be experiencing May-Thurner Syndrome, which happens when the iliac artery crosses over the iliac vein on the left side of the pelvis. In some cases, especially common in women, this crossover creates enough pressure to constrict the vein and decrease circulation and venous blood returns up the left leg. The barrier to efficiently return blood up the left leg often results in unyielding swelling. Thankfully, this condition can be easily treated with a stent.   

Our providers at Capital Vein and Laser have a lot of experience with these conditions. If you are experiencing leg swelling, please contact us at 866-695-8346. We can help!

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