While swelling in your legs after a long day on your feet is quite normal, as are leg cramps after you exercise, ongoing problems with these symptoms may signal something larger, such as a cardiovascular issue.
To help you determine whether there’s any cause for concern, the team here at James Kim Cardiology has pulled together some information on several cardiovascular problems that may lead to leg swelling and/or cramps.
Under the experienced direction of Dr. James Kim, we believe that education is key in getting you the help you need as early as possible.
Your cardiovascular system
The primary components of your cardiovascular system are your heart, veins, and arteries. Your veins deliver blood to your heart and then your lungs to pick up oxygen and nutrients, which your heart then pumps back out through your arteries.
While this explanation is incredibly simplistic, it helps us to explain the problems that can potentially lead to leg swelling and/or cramps.
While your veins are tasked with delivering blood back to your heart, some have a tougher job in this regard, namely the veins in your legs. Not only are the blood vessels in your legs far from your heart, but our veins also have to fight gravity to push the blood back up toward your chest.
To help, your veins are lined with tiny valves that shut off as blood passes through, preventing it from spilling backward. If these valves weaken or malfunction, you can develop chronic venous insufficiency, which can lead to:
- Leg swelling
- Leg cramps
- Varicose veins
- Itchy legs
- Discoloration In your skin
- Leg ulcers
If we find that you have venous insufficiency, we treat it conservatively and recommend compression stockings, as well as a few lifestyle changes like exercise.
Peripheral artery disease
Now let’s move to your arteries. If your arteries are becoming blocked (atherosclerosis), it can hamper the blood flow to your legs and result in peripheral artery disease (PAD). The most common signs of PAD include:
- Cramping on one side of your hips or legs after exercise
- Numbness in your legs
- Temperature changes in your skin
- Slow-healing ulcers
As PAD progresses, these symptoms can worsen, which is why early intervention is best. Through extensive diagnostic testing, we can determine whether you have PAD and then recommend an appropriate treatment plan, which typically includes medications and lifestyle changes.
Deep vein thrombosis (DVT)
This condition stems from a blood clot that usually forms in your pelvis, thighs, or lower legs. DVT can be quite serious if the blood clot breaks free and travels to your lungs, blocking the flow of blood, which is why you should be on the alert for:
- Swelling in one leg
- Warm skin around the swelling
- Pain in your leg
- Enlarged veins near the surface
If you recognize any of these symptoms, we urge you to come see us so we can take a look.
We’ve saved the most serious condition for last, which is congestive heart failure. One of the most noticeable signs of heart failure is fluid (blood) buildup in your lower legs, which is called edema. This occurs because your heart’s lower chambers aren’t able to pump your blood properly.
As you can see, a wide range of issues can lead to leg swelling and/or cramping, which is why a visit to us is a good idea. To get to the bottom of your symptoms, contact one of our two offices in National City or Chula Vista, California, to set up an appointment.