Thu | Jan 18, 2018

The Tranquil Way

Published:Tuesday | April 19, 2016 | 12:00 AM

In this the age of increased access to information offered by providers such as Google, persons are more concerned about leg swelling as they now know it can be caused by a life-threatening condition. But how worried should we be about this problem, though?

Probably the most serious cause of leg swelling is deep vein thrombosis (DVT). This condition is caused by a clot forming in one of the major deep veins in the leg or thigh. Clots forming in the superficial veins are of no real threat and are not treated aggressively. The danger of a DVT lies in the fact that a portion can break off and end up in the lung (pulmonary embolism) thereby cutting of the blood supply to the lungs and even preventing adequate blood flow in the circulation on a whole.


DVT usually causes swelling of one leg and possibly some discomfort. It can be caused by a number of factors, including being in a resting position (sitting or lying) for many hours.

Lymphoedema is a fairly common cause. Lymph is the fluid that leaks out of the blood stream, bringing nutrients to the body tissues. It is normally returned to the circulation, bringing waste products through the lymphatic system of which the lymph nodes are a part. Inflammation or obstruction in this system in the leg may slow down the flow of lymph, leading to swelling. This swelling may be one- or two-sided.

Organ failure is another feared cause of leg swelling. These organs include the kidneys, the liver, and the heart. They all may cause swelling of both legs and often, shortness of breath. There is not usually any pain or redness. It is diagnosed by using various tests.


Cellulitis of the leg may also cause one-sided swelling. This is an infection of the soft tissues of the leg. It usually comes with pain, fever, and redness. This condition is usually treated in hospital and is more common in persons with a weak immune systems like diabetics.

Circulation problems like varicose veins may also cause swollen legs.

There may be some darkening of the skin and even ulcer formation. Pregnancy and tumours in the pelvis may compress the veins coming from the legs, leading to leg swelling. The hormones of pregnancy also contribute to the swelling.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. Medical attention should be sought for this problem.