One of the most common complaints that we hear in our practice as vein care specialists in Kauai and Maui is from patients who suffer from chronically swollen legs and ankles. And as we speak to them, we realize that they have often fallen prey to myths and misunderstandings about swollen legs and ankles, and that this misinformation has prevented them from seeking medical help for a potentially serious condition. In this article we’ll correct a few of these myths.
First, swollen legs and ankles are not “normal”
They’re always a sign that something is wrong, and that you should seek medical attention. If the swelling (technically known as peripheral edema) only lasts for a few days and then goes away, then it is likely that it was caused by an ankle sprain or similar injury to the tendons that connect the leg bone to the foot. But you should see a doctor even if the swelling is due to an injury, because the swelling might be due to a chipped bone or damage to the surface of the joints.
If the condition has lasted more than a day or two, it is even more important to see a doctor, because the list of medical conditions that can cause swollen legs and ankles is a long one, and contains some pretty serious possibilities. For example, chronically swollen legs and ankles can be due to congestive heart failure, kidney failure, cirrhosis of the liver, hypertensive heart disease, and peripheral vascular disease. While none of these conditions are common, it is safest to see a physician to rule them out as potential causes of the swelling.
One cause of swollen legs and ankles that few know about is vein disease
If you have varicose veins, one likely cause of the swelling can be chronic venous insufficiency. If you have CVI, the tiny, one-way valves that control blood flow in the veins of your legs have become diseased or damaged, and no longer close properly after blood flows through them. This allows the deoxygenated blood to flow “backwards” back into the veins and pool there, causing them to become swollen and discolored. Left untreated, one of the most common side effects of varicose veins and CVI is swollen legs and ankles. The swelling should be viewed as a reminder that varicose veins aren’t “merely cosmetic,” and that you should see a varicose vein treatment specialist in Honolulu or Maui before they cause lasting damage to your circulatory and immune systems.
Another vein disease that can lead to swollen legs and ankles is deep vein thrombosis, or DVT, which is even more serious. If you have DVT, it means that blood clots (thrombi) have begun to form in the large, deep veins of your legs. These blood clots impair proper blood flow (which can cause the swelling), but are potentially much more dangerous because they can travel through the veins to other locations in the body. If the blood clots travel to your brain they can cause a stroke, and if they travel to your lungs they can cause a pulmonary embolism. This condition kills hundreds of thousands of Americans every year.
So what should I do about my swollen legs and ankles?
See a doctor. And in particular, consider going to a vein treatment center in Hawaii so that trained vascular doctors can perform tests to determine whether the swelling is due to disease in your veins or arteries. If it is, these professionals can recommend treatments to either remove veins diseased by CVI or eliminate blood clots that have formed in your deeper veins.
What you shouldn’t do is try to “tough it out” and pretend that nothing is wrong. Whatever the cause, if the swelling has lasted for more than a week, it’s not going to get better on its own or just go away – instead, it’s going to get worse. Fortunately, CVI, DVT, and other vein diseases can be quickly and easily treated, using minimally-invasive treatment techniques that are so painless that they don’t require anesthesia, and that can be performed in under an hour. So give the professionals from Maui vein treatment center a call at 808-214-5715 and arrange for a vein health screening. It takes only a few minutes, but can save you months of chronic pain, and if you have DVT and don’t know it, it can even save your life.
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