You look down and are unable to tell where your calves end and your ankles begin thanks to swelling in your lower limbs. This is a typical result of a condition we call edema, which is caused by fluid buildup in your body. In some cases, this swelling is perfectly normal and only temporary, while, in others, it might indicate a serious cardiovascular condition.
To help you discern whether your edema is worth investigating further, the team of cardiovascular experts here at Advanced Cardiovascular Specialists is focusing our attention on the many causes of edema in this month’s blog post.
At its core, edema is a condition in which fluid builds up in your tissues because of small capillaries that leak. In many cases, this occurs in your lower limbs because of the pull of gravity, but it can also develop in your abdomen, hands, and face.
Since edema is mostly caused by poor circulation, its connection to your cardiovascular health is a direct one. That said, not all causes of edema are worrisome.
For example, women who are pregnant often develop swollen ankles later in their pregnancy as the growing fetus places pressure on the blood vessels that access their lower limbs. This condition typically resolves itself after birth.
As well, if you sit for prolonged periods, fluid can begin to build up in your ankles as you aren’t moving around enough to encourage your veins to deliver blood back to your heart.
Rounding out the list of less concerning causes of edema are certain medications, such as blood pressure drugs, or a diet that features too much salt. In these cases, we can tweak your medications or your diet, which should clear up the swelling.
Though the drivers of edema we mention above are either temporary or easily resolved, there are potentially serious conditions that can lead to this type of swelling, including:
If the valves in the veins in your legs begin to fail, blood can pool backward, leading to varicose veins and edema.
With congestive heart failure, the lower chambers of your heart are slow to pump blood out, causing fluids to back up in the veins that are trying to return blood to your heart. When this happens, you can develop edema in your lower limbs, as well as in your abdomen.
More seriously, fluid can collect in your lungs, which can lead to breathing difficulties. Heart failure can also hamper the ability of your kidneys to filter out sodium and water, which can greatly exacerbate (and cause) edema.
When it comes to deciding whether to seek our help for edema, we urge you to come see us if you’re struggling with ongoing swelling in your body’s tissues that doesn’t appear to be related to temporal issues.
To get started, please contact our office in Mountain View, California, for expert diagnosis and treatment of edema.