When Leg Cramps and Swelling Are Cause for Concern

Leg cramps and swelling can be more than just a nuisance. These symptoms may point to an underlying problem with your veins.

Leg cramps and swelling of the legs, ankles, and feet are common, especially as you get older. Most of the time, puffy legs have a harmless explanation; in other cases, it can signal circulatory problems.

If you’ve noticed swollen and crampy legs, it’s best to avoid jumping to conclusions. If you have risk factors such as obesity, high blood pressure, or a history of heart problems, it’s wise to visit a specialist to get to the bottom of things.

Cardiovascular physician Dr. Majed Chane and our team here at CA Heart and Vein Specialists know that many things can cause crampy, swollen legs. If you have a job that involves being on your feet all day, experiencing crampy legs isn’t all that surprising. With that said, patients often wonder when to worry about puffy, crampy legs.

Mild leg swelling

The type of leg swelling and cramps you experience is something to pay attention to and make note of. Leg swelling that occurs after long hours on your feet or extended time sitting on an airplane usually isn’t a major cause for concern. Standing or sitting for long periods can cause fluids to build up in your legs and feet.

Swelling is also more likely to occur if you’re overweight or pregnant. This type of swelling often responds favorably to lifestyle changes such as limiting salt intake and stretching or moving around to avoid fluid accumulation.

Signs of trouble

Moderate to severe leg swelling and cramping that doesn’t seem to resolve on its own is a reason to seek a professional assessment. We recommend discussing persistent leg swelling with Dr. Chane, as it may signal heart or circulatory trouble. Here are a few reasons you may experience leg swelling and cramping.

Peripheral artery disease

Known as PAD, peripheral artery disease develops when blood vessels become narrow and restrict blood flow to your extremities. It most commonly affects your legs and is most often the result of fatty buildup in the arteries.

PAD commonly causes pain and cramping in your calves and thighs that is often more noticeable with exertion, such as climbing stairs. PAD is a major risk factor for heart attack and stroke, making it crucial to not ignore symptoms of PAD.

Deep vein thrombosis

Blood clots can form anywhere in your body. Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) refers to a blood clot that typically forms in your pelvis, thigh, or leg. Pain and swelling in the affected area are common symptoms.

Swelling in one leg is a warning sign of DVT. It may also cause your leg to feel warm to the touch. People with a rare condition called May-Thurner Syndrome, in which the iliac vein is compressed, are at a higher risk for developing DVT, but it can happen to anyone.

If a blood clot breaks loose and travel to the lungs, it can block blood flow, causing a potentially life-threatening condition known as pulmonary embolism.

Venous insufficiency

Sometimes, your veins have problems getting blood back to your heart. As a result, fluid can build up in your legs. Veins have one-way valves that under normal circumstances keep blood flowing in one direction toward your heart.

In patients with venous insufficiency, these valves don’t work well, allowing blood to pool in the legs and even flow backward. This can cause your legs to swell and feel crampy and painful.

Persistent leg swelling requires proper evaluation, care, and management. Partnering with a heart and vein specialist is the first step to effectively managing conditions that cause puffy legs. Contact our team at 657-206-8630 to schedule an appointment with Dr. Chane at our Huntington Beach, California, office or use our convenient online request tool.

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