Lower Leg Swelling and Discoloration

Lower leg swelling may affect your calf, ankle, toes, or foot, and this could be due to a number of different causes. Some of these causes are not that serious, such as discoloration caused by bruises. However, you may require medical treatment for certain problems, such as venous insufficiency or venous hypertension that can cause lower leg swelling. You usually need no treatment when the discoloration is on a small area and is caused by bruises, but you should see your doctor if discoloration covers a larger area of the calf, ankle, or foot. Let's find out more about the causes of swelling with some treatment options.

Possible Causes of Lower Leg Swelling and Discoloration

Lower leg swelling does not always indicate a serious problem. In fact, it should not be a cause of concern in most cases. However, you need to see your doctor if swelling increases with time and you have a variety of other symptoms as well. Here are some of the most common causes of swelling in your lower body.

1. Bruise or Contusion

You get bruises or contusions when something hits your body hard and breaks small blood vessels underneath your skin. You develop a reddish purple area where the damaged blood vessels leak. It usually takes up to 48 hours for a bruise to develop completely and usually takes up to 2 weeks to disappear. While healing, it goes through different color changes depending on the severity and depth of the bruise. You usually need no treatment but applying ice, keeping the area elevated, and taking painkillers may help accelerate healing.

2. Hematoma

You develop a hematoma after an injury when the blood accumulates in tissue outside of a damaged blood vessel. Most hematomas do not require any treatment because your body absorbs them within a couple of weeks. It continues to change color from purple and blue to yellow and brown. Icing the area, resting the injury, keeping the affected area elevated, and taking OTC painkillers help manage your condition better.

3. Venous Insufficiency

You have this condition when the veins in your body find it difficult to send blood from the legs back to your heart. Lower leg swelling and discoloration is a common symptom, but you may also notice other issues such as itching and tingling, cramping in legs, pain that becomes worse when standing and improves when legs are elevated, varicose veins, ulcers on the ankles or legs, and wound on the ankles or legs that heal slowly. Performing regular exercise, wearing compression stockings, losing weight, and not sitting or standing for long periods may help improve your condition.

4. Insect Bites

Swelling may well be the outcome of insect bites, especially if you also notice other symptoms such as skin bumps, welts, and pain and discomfort. Bites and stings from mosquitoes, bees, fleas, wasps, and other insects can cause these symptoms with itchy skin reactions. They are usually not dangerous and your condition improves by cleaning the area, applying cold compresses, and taking antihistamines. You may have to take steroids, epinephrine injection, or antihistamines in case a severe reaction develops.

5. Blood Clot in the Legs

If you have lower leg swelling and discoloration with bulging veins, tenderness and warmth in the affected area with a lump or bulge, this may indicate a blood clot in the leg. You develop clots in this area when blood thickens and clumps in a calf or thigh vein. Taking anticoagulants or blood thinners help treat and prevent new clots from forming. Other treatment options include compression stockings, leg elevation, and surgery.

6. Acute Kidney Failure

If swelling is accompanied with symptoms like confusion, decreased urination, drowsiness, increased thirst, dry mouth, decreased appetite, and lightheadedness, it could be because of acute kidney failure. You develop this condition when your kidneys suddenly lose their ability to filter water and waste from the blood. Immediate intensive treatment is of paramount importance. Treatment depends on the underlying cause of kidney failure and may involve stopping medications related to the cause, restricting diet, taking intravenous fluids, and undergoing a surgery to treat obstruction. Dialysis may also be required in this condition.

7. Glomerulonephritis

You develop this serious disease when your kidneys stop filtering blood. It could be acute glomerulonephritis, which comes usually after an infection with a virus. It could also be chronic glomerulonephritis, which develops over time but causes symptoms such as bubbly, dark urine, hypertension, and swelling. Your doctor will consider the type of glomerulonephritis first to determine the best treatment, which may include antibiotics, corticosteroids, blood pressure medications, and dialysis. Dietary changes may also help but kidney transplant is sometimes the only treatment available in severe cases.

8. Osteomyelitis

This infection of bones causes swelling along with many other symptoms including skin redness, fever, headache, and pain. The infection can get to the bone through an injury, through nearby tissues, or through the blood. It usually affects children and can cause serious complications if left untreated. The good thing is that osteomyelitis responds well to antibiotics. You may require surgery in some rare cases.

7. Crohn's Disease

In this chronic condition, your immune system starts attacking healthy tissue in your digestive tract. This may cause lower leg swelling and discoloration along with many other symptoms, including diarrhea, blood in toilet, joint pain, skin bumps, fever, mouth sores, and change in stools. You may also lose weight quickly, have red colored stools, and experience pain or discomfort too. Unfortunately, there is no cure available for this chronic condition but certain medications and surgery often makes your condition more manageable.

8. Pulmonary Hypertension

You develop this condition when the blood pressure in the vessels of the lungs is constantly on the rise. When this happen, the right side of your heart has to become more active, which in turn can cause heart failure. You can develop pulmonary hypertension if you already have congenital heart defects, heart disease, lung disease, or autoimmune disorders. The most common symptoms of pulmonary hypertension include swelling, fatigue, blue colored skin, dizziness, shortness of breath, irregular heartbeat, and chest pain. Your doctor may prescribe medications such as calcium channel blockers, blood vessel dilators, diuretics, or anticoagulants to treat your condition. Surgery is sometimes necessary to prevent further complications.