By Medicover Hospitals / 29 Mar 2021
Lower limb swelling usually occurs due to an abnormal accumulation of fluid in the tissues of the lower limb. The medical term for swelling of the legs from excess fluid in the tissues is peripheral edema. The persistent cleft of a swollen leg after finger pressure is known as pitting edema.
- What is Lower Limb Swelling?
- When to visit a Doctor?
What is Lower Limb Swelling?
It should never be assumed that leg swelling is because of peripheral edema. A definitive diagnosis of the underlying cause must be made, and a careful history and examination, along with appropriate confirmatory tests, are essential. Leg swelling can be unilateral or bilateral:
Bilateral inflammation is usually due to systemic diseases (eg, heart failure) and unilateral inflammation is usually due to local trauma, venous disease, or lymphatic disease.
Unilateral leg swelling is most often due to local causes (eg, deep vein thrombosis or cellulitis). However, bilateral swelling from systemic causes can be much more obvious on one side than the other and may therefore appear to be unilateral swelling.
There are many potential causes of swollen feet, legs, and ankles. Swelling occurs in most cases as a consequence of such lifestyle causes, such as:
- Being overweight: Excess body mass can decrease blood circulation, causing fluid to build up in your feet, legs, and ankles.
- Standing or sitting for long periods: When muscles are inactive, they cannot pump body fluids to the heart. Water and blood retention can trigger swelling in the legs.
Other possible causes:
- Natural hormonal changes: Fluctuating levels of estrogen, and progesterone can reduce circulation in the legs and lead to swelling. These changes in hormone levels can occur during pregnancy and a woman's menstrual cycle.
- A blood clot in the leg: A blood clot is a group of blood that is in a solid-state. When a blood clot forms in a vein in the leg, it can affect blood flow and cause swelling and discomfort.
- Injury or infection: An injury or infection affecting the foot, leg, or ankle causes increased blood flow to the area. This presents a swelling.
- Pericarditis: This is long-term inflammation of the pericardium, which is the sac-like membrane that surrounds the heart. Breathing problems and considerable chronic swelling of the legs and ankles are caused by the disease.
- Lymphoedema: Lymphedema, also called lymphatic obstruction, causes blockages of the lymphatic stream. This system is made up of lymph nodes and blood vessels that help transport fluid throughout the body. A blockage in the lymphatic system causes the tissues to swell with fluid, causing swelling in the arms and legs.
- Preeclampsia: During pregnancy, this disease causes increased blood pressure. Increased blood pressure can lead to poor circulation and swelling in the face, hands, and legs.
- Cirrhosis: This refers to severe scarring of the liver, which is often caused by alcohol abuse or an infection (hepatitis B or C). High blood pressure and low circulation in the feet, legs, and ankles may be caused by the disorder.
Your doctor can order one or more of the following tests to help diagnose the cause of the swelling:
- 1. Blood tests, including blood counts, kidney and liver function studies, and electrolytes assess various organs
- 2. X-rays to view bones and other tissues.
- 3. Ultrasound for the examination of lungs, blood vessels, and tissues
- 4. Electrocardiogram to assess heart function
- 5. Your doctor would typically prescribe home care if your swelling is due to a lifestyle habit or a minor injury. If your swelling is the result of an underlying health condition, your doctor will first try to treat that specific condition.
There are several treatments you can try at home if your feet, legs, and ankles become swollen regularly.
- Elevate your legs whenever you are lying down. Your legs should be elevated so they are above your heart. You may want to put a pillow under your legs to make them feel more comfortable.
- Keep healthy and concentrate on the legs being spread and moving.
- Reduce your salt intake, which can decrease the amount of fluid that can collect in your legs.
- Avoid wearing garters and other restrictive clothing around your thighs.
- Maintain a healthy body weight.
- Wear support stockings or compression stockings.
- Get up or move around at least once an hour, especially if you are sitting or standing for long periods.
When to visit a Doctor?
Swollen legs can be a sign of many conditions, ranging from mild to severe. Some conditions can be life-threatening and require an emergency response.
- Leg swelling that occurs suddenly, for no apparent reason
- Leg swelling that occurs after an injury.
- Painful swelling in one leg accompanied by cold, pale skin.
- Swelling accompanied by blisters or redness.
- Swelling gets worse, especially if you have a history of heart or kidney disease.
- Leg swelling accompanied by a swollen abdomen, especially if you have a history of liver disease.
- Swelling along with fever
- Sudden or severe swelling if you are pregnant; maybe a sign of a complication called preeclampsia
- Chronic swelling of the legs that does not go away with home remedies
Foot, leg, and ankle swelling cannot always be prevented. Some good strategies include:
- Exercise regularly to maintain good circulation. For adults ages 18 to 64, the World Health Organization's trusted source recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 minutes of high-intensity exercise per week.
- Avoid sitting or standing for a long time. Be sure to get up or move around periodically if you sit or stay still for long periods.
- Regulate your salt intake. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, a trusted source, recommend that adults consume no more than 2,300 milligrams of salt per day.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Common causes of leg swelling include salt retention, cellulite, congestive heart failure, venous insufficiency, pregnancy, and medication side effects..
Drink 8 to 10 glasses a day of water. Although it may seem counterintuitive, drinking enough fluids helps reduce swelling.
By limiting blood supply to the region and slowing down cellular metabolism, the use of cold shortly following an injury helps reduce swelling.
- Place your legs on pillows to lift them above your heart while lying down
- Exercise your legs
- Follow a diet low in salt, which can reduce fluid build-up and bloat
- Take regular breaks while driving, to stand and walk
Swelling of the Lower Limb - https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S009082581400208X
Swelling of the lower limb - https://journals.lww.com/nuclearmed/Abstract/2012/01000/Lymphatic_Dysfunction_in_the_Apparently_Clinically.2.aspx
Swelling of the lower limb - https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00140138608968267