When Should I See a Doctor About Leg Swelling?

It’s common for fluid retention to show in your legs, feet, and ankles, often due to hormonal events, dietary reasons, or as side effects of medications. However, there are times when swelling in your legs indicates a more serious issue. Medically referred to as edema, it can be treated as a symptom, but prevention could require addressing the underlying cause.

Recognizing edema

It’s easy to spot fluid retention, as your feet, ankles, and lower legs become larger than usual, with a puffy appearance that stretches your skin and may create a shiny appearance. Other parts of your body can be affected by edema, but it’s usually most obvious in the extremities, including hands, wrists, and arms as well as your legs. 

When you press a swollen area, you’ll notice that the depression persists for a few seconds. This confirms the excess of fluids in the tissue under your skin.

Causes of fluid retention

Not all cases of edema are severe. You could have mild fluid retention simply from being in one position too long, particularly sitting down. When you start to move around again, swelling typically clears quickly.

Edema can accompany other premenstrual symptoms each month, and it’s also common for pregnant women to experience, demonstrating a link to hormonal causes. These too usually pass predictably. A diet that’s high in salt may also contribute to mild edema.

Fluid retention and swelling can also be a side effect of some medications. You may develop edema if you’re taking drugs for high blood pressure, hormone supplements, certain diabetes medications, corticosteroids, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatories.

More serious reasons for edema

Edema can be a sign of some serious conditions, too. Congestive heart failure leads to inefficient movement of blood through your body, and blood can back up in your legs, causing edema’s characteristic swelling. Fluid may also collect in your lungs due to this condition.

Kidney and liver diseases can also cause swelling in your legs, as well as other places in your body. This can sometimes help diagnosis, such as with kidney disease, which typically features swelling in the legs and around the eyes.

Blood can also collect in your legs due to the failure of the valves in the veins of your legs. These valves assist the upwards movement of blood to the heart.

When to see a doctor about swollen legs

Any unexpected swelling of your legs is worthy of a doctor visit, and there are certain situations where medical attention is urgent. Seek emergency care if swollen legs are accompanied by:

Contact Dr. Imtiaz Ahmad and the team at Comprehensive Vein Treatment Center if you’re experiencing swollen legs and require treatment before edema interferes with your daily activities. You can call the office or use the online tool to request an appointment.

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