What Leg Swelling Can Mean

Leg swelling is a problem that many people can develop at some point in their life.  There are several different causes of leg swelling, and different types of leg swelling as well.  However, for most people, leg swelling may be fairly widespread, in one or both legs, feet, and/or ankles.  If you’re not pregnant, or haven’t recently injured yourself, it’s likely a cause for concern. Infections, kidney issues, and even sciatica can all cause leg swelling.  One of the most common culprits, however, rests with the vein system in the legs. This kind of swelling is typically accompanied by pain, fatigue, and discomfort, as well as some visible external symptoms on the affected legs.  In these cases, leg swelling symptoms are typically a sign of a more serious problem lurking in your legs – venous disease, also known as venous insufficiency. Left untreated, venous insufficiency can lower your quality of life, cause extreme pain, and can have life-threatening complications.  Fortunately, there are effective treatments for leg swelling and pain caused by venous insufficiency. Read on to learn more!

Understanding Venous Insufficiency

Venous insufficiency is the cause of many leg problems, including spider veins, varicose veins, skin color or appearance changes, irritation, ulcers, and more.  Leg swelling is just one of these external, visible symptoms. To understand venous insufficiency, and what it is, you need to understand the anatomy of how your veins work.  Inside your veins, there are multiple valves. These open and close with your heartbeat, and assist the body in circulating blood from the heart throughout the body and back to the heart and lungs once it is oxygen depleted.  The veins in the legs have the most work to do to fight against gravity, and therefore these valves are under tremendous pressure. Over time, due to a variety of causes, these valves can start to leak, not closing properly with each cycle.  Blood can flow back behind them, and pool in the veins behind the valves. This pooling results in increased pressure, and forces the veins to branch out and seek new pathways around the dysfunctional valves. That’s what typically causes spider veins and varicose veins.  The pooled blood and pressure from this process can lead to leg swelling as well.

Visible Symptoms of Venous Insufficiency

Leg swelling symptoms that you can see in the legs, when caused by venous insufficiency, may include:

  • Spider veins and varicose veins – prominent, bulging networks of veins near the surface of the skin, often red, purple, blue, or green tinted.
  • Discoloration of areas of the skin, which may be more red, pock-marked, or tinted with a brownish color.
  • Slow-healing wounds or unexplained skin ulcers.
  • Obvious swelling, distension, or changes in the size or shape of tissue in the legs, ankles, and feet.

This should not be taken to mean that every little spider vein is a sign of impending doom.  A few spider veins – tiny, less prominent but visible veins, often around the feet or ankles – are not uncommon as we age, and especially for women after childbirth.  However, the more widespread that spider veins, varicose veins, and related visual symptoms of the legs may be, the greater the likelihood they are a sign of venous insufficiency, and that is what is causing the leg swelling symptoms.

Internal Symptoms of Venous Insufficiency

The symptoms of leg swelling that occur inside the body, and often are the main complaints because they are what patients feel, include:

  • Irritation and pain (moderate to extreme), especially around any prominent veins or swollen tissues.
  • A numbness or tingling in some or all of the leg.
  • Itching and a feeling of “heat” in the legs.
  • Fatigue in the leg muscles and legs in general, which can lead to reduced physical activity or mobility.
  • Cramps and charley horse events in the legs with increasing frequency and severity.
  • A heavy or aching sensation in the legs.
  • Restless leg symptoms.

Treatment for Leg Swelling and Pain

The treatment for leg swelling and pain, along with associated varicose or spider veins and related problems, comes down to dealing with the malfunctioning veins and their leaky valves.  In most cases, this means shutting down the dysfunctional veins, so that blood will naturally flow through other functional veins. Some people may be alarmed at the thought of shutting down veins, but less than 3% of the blood flow in your legs goes through the veins that are almost always the cause of swelling, varicose veins, and spider veins.  In the past, these veins (generally known as saphenous veins) have been removed to treat these problems, but surgery is no longer required. Simple methods such as the injection of a “vein glue,” radiofrequency ablation, or the use of an injectable foam can all take care of this problem permanently, and are available on an outpatient basis. Treating the underlying venous insufficiency will resolve both the visible symptoms, such as swelling, spider veins, and varicose veins, as well as the internal symptoms of pain, discomfort, potential blood clots, and the rest.  Minimally-invasive treatments are relatively pain-free, affordable, and effective, and can be performed in about an hour in most vein doctors’ offices.

FAQs about Leg Swelling Symptoms

How to get rid of leg swelling?

Immediate ways to deal with leg swelling include elevating your legs, decreasing your salt intake (so you retain less fluid), ensuring you get up and walk around and stretch frequently throughout the day, wearing compression stockings, exercising regularly, losing weight if you are overweight, and wearing loose-fitting clothing to prevent blood flow being restricted.  These steps will not resolve the underlying problem, however, which requires professional treatment by a vein doctor.

What are the treatments for leg ache?

Leg aches can be caused by a number of different processes.  If they are a heavy, aching sensation associated with venous insufficiency, then the treatments are as discussed above.  The malfunctioning vein or veins are shut down, either with a vein glue (VenaSeal), an injected irritant foam (Varithena), or using radio waves (Radiofrequency Ablation).  These procedures are non-surgical, available on an outpatient basis, with little to no pain or downtime during recovery.

Concluding Thoughts on Leg Swelling Symptoms

If you’re concerned about leg swelling symptoms, varicose veins, spider veins, or all of the above, then it’s time to seek treatment.  It’s best to be evaluated by a professional, and get treatment for leg swelling and pain before they become serious and life-threatening.  Some of the top quality vein clinics with trained experts are present in almost every major city. In the Houston area, you can book an appointment at Vein Treatment Clinic Houston to have your case reviewed, and an effective treatment recommended by world-class vein doctors.  Don’t live with leg swelling and pain any longer – seek affordable, effective, convenient treatment today!


Leg swelling can be caused by numerous different processes and diseases.  One of the most common reasons for leg swelling is venous insufficiency – also the cause of spider veins and varicose veins in the legs.  These are all visible warning signs of the underlying venous disease, which can be serious and even life-threatening if left untreated. Pain, swelling, fatigue, skin ulcers, and eventually, blood clots are just some of the potential symptoms and complications that can develop.  Therefore, unexplained leg swelling symptoms such as these should be a cause for concern. You should visit a qualified vein doctor to have your case evaluated. In many cases, the underlying venous insufficiency can be treated quite easily and effectively. Modern, minimally-invasive techniques can treat venous insufficiency, and the resultant leg swelling, in about an hour, on an outpatient basis.  It’s always best to seek treatment sooner rather than later, especially if your leg swelling is accompanied by pain, spider veins, varicose veins, itching, irritation, redness, skin ulcers, and similar symptoms. Your quality of life and overall health will be improved if you seek treatment for leg swelling and pain caused by venous insufficiency. And when you do, be sure to choose a reputable vein clinic, staffed by board-certified vein doctors, in order to ensure you get some of the best results.