One Leg Larger than the Other from Lymphedema


Lymphedema is What Causes One Leg to Be Larger than the Other

Learn about the causes, symptoms and treatments.

Swelling. It all happens to us in one way or another, but if you have swelling in just one of your legs, you are likely suffering from a condition called lymphedema. Lymphedema is a condition that affects the lymphatic system, which is part of the circulatory system. The role of lymphatic system is to pick up germs and filter them out of the body.

It accomplishes this through the use of the lymph fluid that is full of protein and the lymph nodes that are found throughout the body. In order for lymph to move through the body, like veins, the lymph vessels also require the muscles to compress the fluid through the vessels. In the presence of lymphedema, there is an obstruction of the lymph vessels which allows for excess fluid to build up in one leg, which prevents the lymph fluid from being pushed up through the body. 

This obstruction can be caused in two different ways:

The Basics:

  • Primary lymphedema occurs in the setting of an inherited disorder, many of which are rare.
  • Secondary lymphedema occurs in the setting of obstruction that can occur in different areas of the lymph system. These obstructions are most commonly caused by infection, radiation treatment, and prior surgery to remove lymph nodes. 

Despite there being two different causes for lymphedema, the symptoms are exactly the same. 

Symptoms can be severe, but may also be minimal. 

  • Swelling is the most common symptom and is usually obvious and tends to occur in only one leg.
  • Reduced movement occurs based on the amount swelling, which can make it difficult to move joints or walk.
  • Skin changes, such as hardening of the skin or discoloration occur as the swelling increases, which leads to the development of infections of the skin.

Benefits of Laser Treatment

Laser therapy is best used to treat spider veins on the face over sclerotherapy. Some of the other common reasons to choose laser therapy is fear of needles, if you are allergic to specific chemicals, and smaller veins that may not be able to be treated with chemical therapies.

Although the procedure is short and is performed in the office, it tends to be painful, mainly from the heat of the laser. In patients with darker skin, there is a higher chance for staining of the skin in areas where the laser is used to treat spider veins.

To book an appointment with Dr. Mackay or ask a question, call 1-727-261-0044 or fill out an appointment request form.

How to treat Lymphedema

Lymphedema has no cure, but there are treatments that may help to reduce the symptoms and prevent from worsening of symptoms. Use of bandages for compression or specialized compression garments help to push fluid out of the leg to reduce swelling.

Specialty massages can be performed to stimulate the lymphatic system to try to remove excess fluid. Exercise causes the muscles to compress the lymphatic ducts to stimulate movement of fluid. Keeping the swelling under control will help to prevent worsening of symptoms, such as difficulty with movements and skin changes.

What to do if you have Symptoms

If you have any signs or symptoms of lymphedema, please visit with your doctor to find out the possible cause of your lymphedema and discuss what options would be best to treat your symptoms.

Meet ABMS Board Certified Surgeon, Dr. Mackay

 Contact the office of Dr. Edward Mackay, a board certified vascular surgeon providing spider vein treatment to patients in the Tampa area.