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Leg swelling is an abnormal condition and a symptom of a variety of mild to serious diseases, disorders and conditions. Leg swelling, also called edema, can result from infection, inflammation, trauma, and circulatory disorders and cardiac disorders and other abnormal processes.
Depending on the cause, leg swelling can be short-term and disappear quickly, such as when it occurs due to sitting during a long airline flight. Chronic leg swelling often indicates a potentially serious disorder, such as congestive heart failure. Other serious conditions that can cause leg swelling include blood clots (deep vein thrombosis), kidney disease, preeclampsia, or liver disease.
Leg swelling can be the result of a wide variety of other conditions, diseases or disorders. These include orthopedic conditions, such as bone fractures, or a cast that is too tight. For more details about causes, see causes of leg swelling.
Leg swelling may occur with or without pain depending on the underlying disease or disorder that causes it. There are many other symptoms that can accompany leg swelling. Symptoms can include paresthesia, leg weakness, decreased range of motion and shortness of breath.
Diagnosing leg swelling and its root cause begins with taking a thorough personal and family medical history, including symptoms, and completing a physical examination, including a neurological examination. This includes testing a person's gait, reflexes, muscle strength and sensation.
Injuries to the leg that cause leg swelling, such as fractures, can often be diagnosed with an X-ray. Ligament and tendon injuries can be diagnosed using MRI.
Congestive heart failure is diagnosed using a variety of tests and exams. These include listening with a stethoscope to the sounds that the heart and lungs make. Certain lung sounds, such as a bubbling or crackling sound, point to congestive heart failure. Certain abnormal heart sounds can also increase the suspicion of congestive heart failure. Other tests include an EKG, chest X-ray, echocardiogram, stress test, angiogram and a blood test called a B-type natriuretic peptide (BNP).
A diagnosis of leg swelling and its cause can easily be delayed or missed because it can be mild or not last for long periods of time. For information on misdiagnosis, refer to misdiagnosis of leg swelling.
Treatment of leg swelling involves diagnosing and treating the underlying disease, disorder or condition that is causing it. Some conditions can be easily and successfully treated and cured, while others may require more intensive treatment and may not have an optimal prognosis. For more information on treatment, refer to treatment of leg swelling. ...more »
Treatment plans for leg swelling are individualized depending on the cause, the presence of coexisting diseases, the age of the patient, and other factors. Treatment generally involves a multifaceted plan that addresses the underlying or associated cause and helps to minimize leg swelling so that a person can lead an active normal life.
Some common causes of leg ...more treatments »
Diagnosing leg swelling and its cause may be delayed or missed because the leg swelling may not be severe or bothersome enough for a person to seek medical care. Leg swelling is a symptom of many different conditions, so a thorough medical evaluation is needed to ensure an accurate diagnosis of the reason for leg swelling. ...more misdiagnosis »
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