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Should I Be Concerned About My Swollen Legs?

Should I Be Concerned About My Swollen Legs?

It’s hot out, you’re pregnant, or you’re on a plane — leg swelling is perfectly normal in these and other circumstances. Ongoing issues with swollen lower limbs and feet, however, could signal a problem with your cardiovascular system.

To help you determine whether the swelling in your legs may be cardiovascular-related and warrants closer attention, the team here at James Kim Cardiology, under the direction of Dr. James Kim, outlines a few of the warning signs.

The many causes of leg swelling

How do you know whether you need to be concerned about swelling in your legs? The short answer: It depends.

If you’re pregnant, or you’re on a long flight, or the temps have soared and you haven't moved around much, fluid can build up in your lower legs and feet. In these cases, the problem is temporary and you can typically relieve the swelling by moving around a little, elevating your legs, and/or reducing your salt intake, which should reduce the fluid buildup.

As well, swelling in your legs can also be related to kidney function — if your kidneys aren’t clearing fluids from your system properly, they can build up in your tissues, causing edema in your lower legs and feet.

If you have ongoing problems with leg swelling, which is medically known as edema, and there’s no obvious underlying cause, such as an injury or the circumstances noted above, it may be time to have us take a closer look.

Cardiovascular-related leg swelling

If your heart is having problems circulating blood throughout your body, symptoms typically develop in areas that are farthest from your heart and your circulation is the weakest. To give you an idea of the cardiovascular issues that can lead to leg swelling, we outline a few here: 

Venous insufficiency

The veins in your legs are tasked with returning blood to your heart, fighting both gravity and distance. If these veins (or the valves within them) weaken, blood can pool and fluid can leak out into surrounding tissues. 

Also called venous insufficiency, this problem often leads to outward signs, such as varicose veins and leg swelling.

Deep vein thrombosis

Another cardiovascular problem that can lead to swelling in your legs is deep vein thrombosis (DVT), which occurs when a blood clot forms in a vein near your pelvis. With DVT, you may notice swelling in just one leg, as well as enlarged veins and discomfort in the area.

Heart failure

With congestive heart failure, your kidneys don’t receive the oxygen they need to filter your blood, and you may notice swelling in your legs, arms, hands, and abdomen as a result. These symptoms are usually accompanied by shortness of breath, wheezing, and fatigue.

The examples above aren’t the only heart-related issues that can lead to swelling in your lower legs, ankles, and feet, but they’re the most common.

Since these conditions range from merely concerning to dangerous, we recommend that you come see us for a full evaluation of your heart health. To get started, simply contact one of our two locations in Chula Vista or National City, California, to set up an appointment.

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