Edema (leg swelling) is caused by the buildup of extra fluid in the veins. It can be caused by a problem with the circulatory system, the lymphatic system or the kidneys. Edema typically is caused by more than one factor such as venous insufficiency, varicose veins, obesity, or pregnancy.


Varicose veins are one of the most common causes of leg swelling. Most varicose vein problems arise when the valves in the leg veins aren’t working properly to keep the blood moving. Varicose veins are swollen, twisted veins close to the surface of the skin. When these valves become damaged, they hold more blood at a higher pressure than normal. Fluid is forced into the surrounding tissue, making the affected leg swell and feel heavy. Oftentimes, Doctors will misdiagnose swollen legs as a symptom of heart or kidney failure, or even pregnancy. The effects of varicose veins are aches and pains, burning sensations, or heaviness of the legs.


Chronic venous insufficiency is more common among those who are overweight, pregnant, or who have a family history of the problem. Venous insufficiency is a condition when blood does not flow properly through the leg veins to the heart. Instead, the blood remains in the leg and pools in the weak vein. When blood begins to pool rather than circulate, there is an increased risk of developing a blood clot. If chronic venous insufficiency is left untreated, pain, swelling, and leg ulcers may occur.


Varicose veins are often the cause of swollen legs and can be treated with noninvasive vein surgery. We recommend seeing a board certified vascular surgeon to consult you about the condition and health of your veins and venous system to help identify the root issue of what is causing the leg swelling.

Seek emergency medical care if you have chest pain, difficulty breathing, dizziness, or are coughing up blood. These symptoms may indicate a blood clot in your lungs or a serious heart condition. If you’re experiencing non-emergency problems such as swollen, tired, or heavy legs or ankles, it may be time to seek help from an experienced doctor. The first step to determine if your swollen legs or ankles are caused by a vein problem is to schedule a consultation with one of our vein specialists. Contact The Vein Center today at 615-269-9007 to get back your healthier legs!

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In some cases, being on your feet for long periods of time can lead to bulging varicose veins. Dr. Bonau’s patient was a ballroom dancer who noticed her legs swelling after dancing and needed treatment that could reduce her discomfort as well and enhance the cosmetic appearance of her varicose veins.