If you’re among the many older adults with leg swelling and pain, these symptoms could signal an underlying health issue.
Swelling in the lower extremities can be associated with heart disease, kidney and liver disease, and in many cases, venous insufficiency, says interventional cardiologist Mohi Alkadri, MD. Venous insufficiency occurs when the valves in the veins fail to function properly, causing blood to pool in the legs. This can sometimes lead to varicose veins, which are enlarged, twisted veins that often appear blue or purplish in color.
If you notice swelling and other warning signs, it’s important to talk with your doctor. “Ignoring these signs can have harmful effects, including leg ulcers, infections and even worse,” Dr. Alkadri says.
What can you do?
Along with seeking a medical evaluation, lifestyle modification is very important, says Dr. Alkadri. For example, losing weight, wearing compression stockings to improve blood flow, and eating a healthy, low-salt diet can reverse symptoms and prevent progression in many cases, he says. For some people, oral supplements may also be recommended.
What minimally invasive treatments can help?
A number of procedures are available that can be performed minimally invasively, with most patients returning to their daily activities immediately.* An example includes endovenous laser ablation. With this image-guided treatment, a fiber optic laser is inserted into the diseased vein, causing the vein to collapse and blood to be rerouted to healthier vessels. Other procedures may use heat or injections to close diseased veins.
Not only can treatment address medical concerns, but it can also improve the appearance of legs and ankles. Care continues to advance to help make treatment easier and better for patients.
When should you see a doctor?
Here are warning signs to see a doctor, says Dr. Alkadri.
- Swelling in the lower extremities that worsens as the day goes on
- Leg cramps in one or both sides, especially when walking, which improve with resting
- Skin changes including swelling, skin discoloration or even ulceration
- Painful legs
- Restless legs syndrome at night
*Individual results may vary. There are risks associated with any surgical procedure. Talk with your doctor about these risks to find out if minimally invasive surgery is right for you.