Swelling in one leg is most often either the result of a clot blocking the blood flow, an injury in a person's leg, or inflammation from arthritic conditions. In a typical situation, swelling in one leg usually means that the problem is somehow centered inside that leg.
In many cases, swelling in one leg can also be caused by arthritis in the knee joint or the ankle. Water retention is one of the most common causes of swollen legs, but it usually causes both legs to swell.
Lymphedema (lymphoedema in British English), also known as lymphatic obstruction, is a condition of localized fluid retention and tissue swelling caused by a compromised lymphatic system. The lymphatic system returns the interstitial fluid to the thoracic duct and then to the bloodstream, where it is recirculated back to the tissues. Symptoms may include severe fatigue, a heavy swollen limb or localized fluid accumulation in other body areas, including the head or neck, discoloration of the skin overlying the lymphedema, and eventually deformity (elephantiasis). Lymphedema should not be confused with edema arising from venous insufficiency, which is not lymphedema.
Lymphedema may be inherited (primary) or caused by injury to the lymphatic vessels (secondary).
The onset of secondary lymphedema in patients who have had cancer surgery has also been linked to aircraft flight (likely due to decreased cabin pressure). Some cases of lower-limb lymphedema have been associated with the use of tamoxifen, due to the blood clots and deep vein thrombosis (DVT) that can be caused by this medication.
The flow of lymph from the legs towards the heart is the result of the soleus muscle also known as the calf pump. Stage 0 (latent): The lymphatic vessels have sustained some damage which is not yet apparent. Stage 3 (lymphostatic elephantiasis): At this stage, the swelling is irreversible and usually the limb(s) or affected area is very large.
A new staging system has been set forth by Lee, Morgan and Bergan[8] and endorsed by the American Society of Lymphology.[citation needed] This provides a clear technique which can be employed by clinical and laboratory assessments to more accurately diagnose and prescribe therapy for lymphedema. Grade 1 (mild edema): Lymphedema involves the distal parts such as a forearm and hand or a lower leg and foot. Grade 2 (moderate edema): Lymphedema involves an entire limb or corresponding quadrant of the trunk. Grade 3a (severe edema): Lymphedema is present in one limb and its associated trunk quadrant. Grade 3b (massive edema): The same symptoms as grade 3a, except two or more extremities are affected. Grade 4 (gigantic edema): Also known as elephantiasis, in this stage of lymphedema, the affected extremities are huge due to almost complete blockage of the lymph channels. Treatment for lymphedema varies depending on the severity of the edema and the degree of fibrosis of the affected limb. Elastic compression garments are worn by persons with lymphedema on the affected limb following complete decongestive therapy to maintain edema reduction.
Compression bandaging, also called wrapping, is the application of several layers of padding and short-stretch bandages to the involved areas. Compression pump technology utilizes a multi-chambered pneumatic sleeve with overlapping cells to promote movement of lymph fluid. Complete decongestive therapy (CDT) is a primary tool in lymphedema management consisting of manual manipulation of the lymphatic ducts,[10] short stretch compression bandaging, therapeutic exercise, and skin care.
Manual manipulation of the lymphatic ducts consists of gentle, rhythmic massaging of the skin to stimulate the flow of lymph and its return to the blood circulation system. Modified liposuction has been developed in Sweden in recent years to remove adipose tissue associated with longstanding lymphedema, primarily in the upper region.
Studies suggest that low-level laser therapy may be effective in reducing lymphedema in a clinically meaningful way for some women. In 2008 an NIH study revealed that early diagnosis of lymphedema in breast cancer patients (called stage 0 in the article) associated with an early intervention, a compression sleeve and gauntlet for 1 month, led to a return to preoperative baseline status.
When the lymphatic impairment becomes so great that the lymph fluid exceeds the lymphatic system's ability to transport it, an abnormal amount of protein-rich fluid collects in the tissues of the affected area. In rare cases, lymphedema can lead to a form of cancer called lymphangiosarcoma, although the mechanism of carcinogenesis is not understood.
Since lymphedema is disfiguring, causes difficulties in daily living and can lead to lifestyle becoming severely limited, it may also result in psychological distress. There are also some cases in which swelling in one leg might be caused by water retention, which could signal major organ failure. This will sometimes cause a lot of other symptoms, such as pain and a noticeable lack of feeling or blood flow in that leg.
Sometimes there may be slightly unequal swelling, with one leg being noticeably bigger than the other.
I had one something similar and it is usually caused by some type of injury and the fluid builds up into a bubble in your calf. DVT stands for deep vein thrombosis, it's when a blood clot forms in a deep vein in the leg.


Shortly afterward, that leg started to swell, mostly around the calf down to the ankle and up to my knee. Lymphedema may be present at birth, develop at the onset of puberty (praecox), or not become apparent for many years into adulthood (tarda).
In women, it is most prevalent in the upper limbs after breast cancer surgery and lymph node dissection, occurring in the arm on the side of the body in which the surgery is performed. For cancer survivors, therefore, wearing a prescribed and properly fitted compression garment may help decrease swelling during air travel. Resolution of the blood clots or DVT is needed before lymphedema treatment can be initiated. As a person walks, the soleus contracts, squeezing lymph out of the leg via the lymphatic vessels. Color, presence of hair, visible veins, size of the legs and any sores or ulcerations should be noted. The first signs may be subjective observations such as "my arm feels heavy" or "I have difficulty these days getting rings on and off my fingers".
Usually upon waking in the morning, the limb or affected area is normal or almost normal in size. Fibrosis found in Stage 2 lymphedema marks the beginning of the hardening of the limbs and increasing size. The tissue is hard (fibrotic) and unresponsive; some patients consider undergoing reconstructive surgery, called "debulking". The difference in circumference is less than 4 centimeters, and other tissue changes are not yet present.
Most people with lymphedema follow a daily regimen of treatment as suggested by their physician or certified lymphedema therapist. Depending on the therapist's discretion, a compression garment may be custom-fit or purchased in over-the-counter, standard sizes. Short-stretch bandages are preferred over long-stretch bandages (such as those normally used to treat sprains), as the long-stretch bandages cannot produce the proper therapeutic tension necessary to safely reduce lymphedema and may in fact end up producing a tourniquet effect. Pump therapy may be used in addition to other treatments such as compression bandaging and manual lymph drainage. The technique was pioneered by Emil Vodder in the 1930s for the treatment of chronic sinusitis and other immune disorders. In the blood’s passage through the kidneys, the excess fluid is filtered out and eliminated from the body through urination. However, surgery for lymphedema does not cure the disease or eliminate the need for decongestive treatment. Two cycles of laser treatment were found to be effective in reducing the volume of the affected arm, extracellular fluid, and tissue hardness in approximately one-third of patients with postmastectomy lymphedema at 3 months posttreatment.
In a 5-year followup patients remained at their preoperative baseline, suggesting that preclinical detection of lymphedema can halt if not reverse its progression. Left untreated, this stagnant, protein-rich fluid causes tissue channels to increase in size and number, reducing the availability of oxygen. In most cases, swelling in a single leg isn’t as serious as two swollen legs, but if the single leg is swollen because of a blood clot, it can be very serious, as can swelling from water retention in the rare cases when it only affects one leg. Arthritis can cause severe damage over time because it can eat away at an individual’s cartilage, which can make it harder and harder for someone to get around. When that happens, a person may think that only one of his legs is swollen because it looks that way to the naked eye. The cause was the development of large muscles that were need to kick-start the now classic motorcycles. It to be needs drained, you need to go to a doctor, they will give you a shot of cortisone and the drain it.
I had X-rays done, which didn't show anything, but over a year ago, I had an MRI on my left knee due to pain, and the MRI showed arthritis and cartilage deterioration. It's also painful, especially while walking. I'm home now and have applied ice to the area and I'm resting. In many patients with cancer, this condition does not develop until months or even years after therapy has concluded.
Head and neck lymphedema can be caused by surgery or radiation therapy for tongue or throat cancer.
When the muscle relaxes, valves in the vessels shut preventing the fluid from returning to the lower extremities.[2] The lymph from the legs is filtered through the inguinal nodes in the groin area on its way to the thoracic duct. Lack of hair may indicate an arterial circulation problem.[2] If swelling is observed, the calf circumference should be measured with a tape measure. These may be symptomatic of early stage of lymphoedema where accumulation of lymph is mild and not detectable by any difference in arm volume or circumference.
This remains controversial, however, since the risks may outweigh the benefits, and the further damage done to the lymphatic system may in fact make the lymphedema worse. Physicians and researchers can use additional laboratory assessments, such as bioimpedance, MRI, or CT, to build on the findings of a clinical assessment (physical evaluation). The most common treatments for lymphedema are a combination of manual compression lymphatic massage, compression garments or bandaging.


Compression garments are meant to be worn every day to maintain edema reduction and must be replaced on a regular basis. During activity, whether exercise or daily activities, the short-stretch bandages enhance the pumping action of the lymph vessels by providing increased resistance for them to push against.
In many cases, pump therapy may help soften fibrotic tissue and therefore potentially enable more efficient lymphatic drainage. Initially, CDT involves frequent visits to a certified therapist with a doctor's prescription. The treatment is very gentle and a typical session will involve drainage of the neck, trunk, and involved extremity (in that order), lasting approximately 40 to 60 minutes. Surgical treatment is used only in extreme cases in order to reduce the weight of the affected limb, to help minimize the frequency of inflammatory attacks, to improve cosmesis, and to potentially reduce the risk of secondary angiosarcoma.[10] Although surgery has shown to reduce edema in the short-term, there is a lack of evidence to suggest that it is beneficial in the long-term. This interferes with wound healing and provides a rich culture medium for bacterial growth that can result in infections: cellulitis, lymphangitis, lymphadenitis, and in severe cases, skin ulcers. If a person hurts his leg by pulling a muscle, or falling and bruising it, a little bit of swelling can be considered normal. Arthritic pain in the knees, ankles, and hips is especially serious because it can limit mobility. Water retention can be a serious danger because kidney, heart, and liver failure are all possible causes. I guess my circulatory system is unable to pump all the fluid away from my legs as it should. The swelling goes down usually at night or when I rest and keep my feet up.
Lymphedema may also be associated with accidents or certain diseases or problems that may inhibit the lymphatic system from functioning properly. It may also occur in the lower limbs or groin after surgery for colon, ovarian or uterine cancer, in which removal of lymph nodes or radiation therapy is required. This measurement can be compared to future measurements to see if the swelling is getting better. As lymphedema develops further, definitive diagnosis is commonly based upon an objective measurement of difference between the affected or at-risk limb at the opposite unaffected limb, e.g. From this, results of therapy can be accurately be determined and reported in documentation, as well as research. Complex decongestive physiotherapy is an empiric system of lymphatic massage, skin care, and compressive garments. Sequential pump therapy may also be used as a home treatment method, usually as part of a regimen also involving compression garments or wrapping. Once the lymphedema is reduced, increased patient participation is required for ongoing care, along with the use of elastic compression garments and non-elastic directional flow foam garments. CDT is generally effective on non-fibrotic lymphedema and less effective on more fibrotic legs, although it has been shown to help break up fibrotic tissue. It is vital for lymphedema patients to be aware of the symptoms of infection and to seek treatment at the first signs, since recurrent infections or cellulitis, in addition to their inherent danger, further damage the lymphatic system and set up a vicious circle.
The main danger is the possibility that the blood clot will break free and damage another major organ while traveling through the blood stream.
It is generally considered wise to consult a physician to be sure it's not water retention or a clot if there is any significant leg swelling.
Also my ankles, feet and knees are swollen, along with me having sharp, shooting pains in my knees down to my feet. In tropical areas of the world, a common cause of secondary lymphedema is filariasis, a parasitic infection.
Surgery or treatment for prostate, colon and testicular cancers may result in secondary lymphedema, particularly when lymph nodes have been removed or damaged. Although a combination treatment program may be ideal, any of the treatments can be done individually. Pressure should be applied with the fingertips over the ankle to determine the degree of swelling.
He said that with DVT, there is always the risk that the blood clot will travel and obstruct blood vessels in organs like the lungs. The assessment should also include a check of the popliteal, femoral, posterior tibial, and dorsalis pedis pulses. Recently, the technique of bioimpedance measurement (which measures the amount of fluid in a limb) has been shown to have greater sensitivity than these existing methods, and holds promise as a simple diagnostic and screening tool.[5] Impedance analysers specifically designed for this purpose are now commercially available. It can cause serious complications like the article said if it isn't treated. So when there is swelling in one leg only, I think it's best to have it checked out.
When checking the femoral pulse, feel for the inguinal nodes and determine if they are enlarged.



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