Louisiana Heart & Vascular Institute Vein Care Centers

Swelling in the legs, ankles, and/or feet, also known as peripheral edema, can be a sign of underlying heart health issues. When the heart is unable to pump blood efficiently, it can result in fluid retention in the lower extremities. Understanding the relationship between leg swelling and heart health is important for early detection and management of potential cardiovascular conditions.

Heart-related swelling typically occurs due to a condition called congestive heart failure (CHF). CHF is a chronic condition where the heart’s ability to pump blood is compromised, leading to fluid accumulation in various parts of the body, including the legs, ankles, and feet. This fluid buildup occurs because the heart cannot adequately circulate blood, causing pressure to build up in the blood vessels. As a result, fluid leaks into the surrounding tissues, leading to swelling.

Swelling associated with heart failure is usually bilateral, meaning it affects both legs symmetrically. It may be more pronounced towards the end of the day or after prolonged periods of standing or sitting. Other symptoms that may accompany leg swelling due to heart issues include shortness of breath, fatigue, weight gain, and a persistent cough.

If you are experiencing leg swelling, it is important to consult with a healthcare professional for a thorough evaluation. They will take into account your medical history, perform a physical examination, and may order diagnostic tests such as blood tests, electrocardiogram (ECG), echocardiogram, or chest X-ray to assess your heart function and determine the underlying cause of the swelling.

The management of leg swelling related to heart health involves addressing the underlying heart condition. Treatment options may include lifestyle modifications, such as reducing sodium intake, engaging in regular physical activity, managing weight, and quitting smoking. Medications, such as diuretics (water pills), may be prescribed to help remove excess fluid and reduce swelling. In some cases, additional treatments or interventions may be necessary to address the specific heart condition causing the leg swelling.

It is worth noting that leg swelling can have causes other than heart-related issues, such as venous insufficiency, kidney problems, or certain medications. Therefore, a comprehensive medical evaluation is crucial for accurate diagnosis and appropriate management.

If you are experiencing leg swelling, especially if it is accompanied by symptoms such as difficulty breathing, chest pain, or severe discomfort, seek immediate medical attention, as these may indicate a medical emergency.

– American Heart Association. (2019). Warning Signs of Heart Failure. Retrieved from [heart.org](https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/heart-failure/warning-signs-of-heart-failure)
– Cleveland Clinic. (2021). Edema. Retrieved from [my.clevelandclinic.org](https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/17059-edema)
– Mayo Clinic. (2021). Edema. Retrieved from [mayoclinic.org](https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/edema/symptoms-causes/syc-20366493)
– National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. (2020). What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Heart Failure? Retrieved from [nhlbi.nih.gov](https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/heart-failure#Signs-Symptoms)