When the valves in leg veins begin to weaken or fail, the blood does not pump in and out of the leg properly. This causes fluid to become trapped in the leg. When the fluid begins to build up, the leg may begin to swell. The term for the buildup of fluid which leads to swelling in the body is edema.

The swelling may be accompanied by other symptoms, such as pain, cramps, or a heavy, tired feeling. Any swelling in the lower leg should be considered abnormal, and patients must visit a physician immediately to diagnose and begin treating the underlying problem. Swelling can also be a symptom of other, non-venous conditions such as heart disease, heart failure, obesity, high blood pressure, liver disease, or kidney disease, so it’s important to seek medical attention immediately.

Lymphedema is a form of chronic edema that occurs when the body's lymphatic system does not function properly. It is not the same as edema caused by vein disease, although vein disease can eventually progress into a combined venous/lymphatic disorder. Lymphedema can be congenital, primary, or secondary. The cause of primary lymphedema is unknown, while secondary lymphedema can be the result of cancer, prior radiation treatment, certain tropical diseases, trauma, or surgical treatment. As with swelling in the lower legs, lymphedema requires the attention of a healthcare professional as soon as possible.

If you are experiencing swollen legs, schedule an appointment with us. Identifying and treating the underlying causes will prevent the progression of symptoms and help you have pain-free legs again.