Do you have a swollen leg? If so, edema could be the cause. Edema is a condition in which excess fluid builds up under the skin, causing swelling and discomfort. Although it can occur anywhere on the body, leg swelling is one of the most common signs of edema.
Fortunately, identifying and treating edema isn’t too difficult. However, be aware that while there are home remedies to control symptoms such as swelling, any serious health condition should always be treated by a medical professional as soon as possible when it arises. That said, before we dive into the treatments that might help you manage this condition, read this blog post to understand how to best spot edema and put you on the road to relief!
How to explain the swelling of the legs?
First, let’s talk about the science behind any type of leg swelling. Fluids are constantly moving, to a small extent, from inside your blood vessels to the surrounding body tissues. Your lymphatic system, which carries immune cells to your blood, is also responsible for cleaning up these leaks. But if the lymphatic system can’t keep up with the movement — especially if the fluid shift is large or sudden — your legs can swell.
For example, suppose your blood and lymph vessels are damaged. Since your blood vessels are constantly working to pump blood back to your heart, damage to these vessels can prevent them from returning blood to circulation as well as before. This is why you may notice that the ankle you broke years ago is still a bit swollen.
Finding what triggered the fluid shift is key to remedying the swelling in your legs. The causes of swelling can be divided into several groups based on the following:
The deadline : If the swelling is sudden (less than 72 hours) or chronic (onset over several weeks or months).
Legs affected : If one or both legs are affected.
Signs of edema.
Along with seeing edema when you look at your feet and ankles, some of the main symptoms can include any of the following:
- Your skin may look stretched and shiny
- Your skin is tight or sore
- Your shoes and socks may be too tight.
- The color of your skin in the swollen area is different from that of the rest of your body.
- Your foot or leg feels heavy
- It is difficult to move your ankle or toes.
- It hurts when you touch your foot or leg.
- You have trouble walking
- Your skin has dimples or depressions when pressed for 10 seconds, which is called “angioedema”.
Common causes of sudden leg swelling.
If you experience leg swelling that occurs over a shorter period of time (less than 72 hours), it may be due to one or more of the following causes:
Located on one leg only:
- A blood clot blocking blood flow in a large vein in the leg – also called DVT or deep vein thrombosis.
- An injury, such as a broken leg or pulled muscle.
- An infection of the skin, joint or other tissue in the leg.
- Inflammation of a joint in the leg, such as the knee.
On both legs:
- Side effects of certain blood pressure medications (like amlodipine or nifedipine), hormones, steroids, and even ibuprofen.
- An untreated thyroid disease, such as hypothyroidism.
- High salt diet
When severe swelling appears quickly, the first thing to think about is blood clots, even if both legs are affected. However, any new leg swelling is not an emergency. Small amounts of swelling around both ankles — like what happens with those sock lines at the end of the day — may simply be due to prolonged sitting or standing.
Normally, the movement of the leg muscles helps bring blood back to the heart for circulation. But if you stay still for a long time, your veins and lymphatics may struggle to keep up. In this case, walking, massaging, and elevating your legs usually resolves the swelling.