Leg and ankle swelling can be sudden or can develop over time, due to an underlying health concern like deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Port Saint Lucie leg swelling expert Dr. Anthony Lewis advises that though most leg swellings resolve independently, you should not delay seeking professional help if other symptoms accompany the swelling.
Reasons for leg swelling
Feet and ankle swelling is something common, especially in older people. Several things can cause leg swelling and they range from mild to severe. It is common to have mild puffiness, especially in your lower legs, if you stand, walk, or sit for extended hours. Though fluid buildup is most common in pregnant women and overweight individuals, edema can happen to anyone. Other possible causes of leg swelling include:
An ankle or foot injury might cause your ankle and lower leg to swell. A sprained ankle is a common cause of swollen legs, occurring due to sports injury, and when a misstep pulls your ligaments connecting the ankle to your foot and leg from alignment. Anyone experiencing a sprained ankle has pain and minimal foot and ankle mobility.
Lymph nodes help drain fluids from your body parts. However, a malfunction of the glands causes excess fluid buildup in your tissues, forcing the affected parts to swell (lymphedema). For instance, you are likely to have an accumulation of fluids in your legs if the glands in your pelvis malfunction or are absent. Lymphedema may result in heaviness in your legs or your affected body parts.
An infection, especially in areas around your lower legs, is likely to cause swelling. You are at a high risk of having foot infection if you have diabetes. Therefore, diabetic patients should regularly watch their feet for cuts, scrapes, and bruises. An untreated infection, especially in diabetic patients, can develop into gangrene (tissue death because of insufficient blood supply or severe infection). Gangrene might force you to undergo a surgical procedure to remove the damaged toe or amputate the affected foot.
- Venous insufficiency
Your lower legs’ veins have valves that prevent blood from pooling back. When you have venous insufficiency, your veins might not function properly. Thus, the blood vessels might not transport blood efficiently from your legs back to your heart. Individuals with the condition might also experience changes in their skin color, infections, and skin ulcers.
- Blood clot
A clot in your legs is likely to cause them to swell. The blood clots can either occur in veins closer to your skin veins (superficial blood clots), or in veins deep inside your body (deep vein thrombosis).
- Kidney disease
Your kidneys’ primary function is to regulate water levels in your body and balance salts and minerals in your blood. However, the organs might find it challenging to filter blood and excrete excess fluids and waste products when they malfunction. As a result, fluid buildup might start in your different body parts, including the lower legs.
Swollen legs can either be less severe or life-threatening. Call your doctor if your leg swells suddenly and comes with other symptoms.