You removed your shoes during your long flight and, in preparation for landing, you try to put them back on. Instead of going on easily, swollen feet and ankles are making the task a little more difficult.
Swollen lower limbs, including your feet, ankles, and lower legs, are far from uncommon when you travel — whether you’re in the driver’s seat or an airplane seat.
If your legs swell routinely when you travel and you want to know whether this is cause for concern, skilled vascular specialist Dr. Ariel Soffer and the team here at Soffer Health Institute present a few points to consider.
Behind the swelling
The good news is that, in most cases, swelling in your lower limbs when you travel is quite common and mostly harmless.
When you’re seated during travel, without opportunity to move around, blood has a tougher time being circulated back up to your heart. As a result, fluids can pool at the lowest points, including your feet, ankles, and lower legs, and this swelling is a condition known as edema.
Exacerbating matters is the fact that your knees are bent, which further hampers easy blood flow through your legs and up to your heart.
If there’s no discomfort with the swelling and it affects both legs, the odds are good that there’s no real cause for concern.
When to seek help for leg swelling
If you travel a good deal and encounter leg swelling each time, this frequent state of edema can lead to larger issues, such as chronic venous insufficiency and varicose veins. For frequent travelers, we suggest that you come in for a vein evaluation so we can come up with a plan to avoid potential complications of frequent leg swelling.
If the swelling is higher up in your leg, affects only one leg, and comes with other symptoms such as pain or skin discoloration, we want you to come see us. This can be a sign of deep vein thrombosis (DVT), which affects up to 900,000 people in the United States each year. A DVT is a clot in a blood vessel in your leg, and we want to monitor this closely.
You should also seek help if there’s any discomfort in your legs that accompanies the swelling or if you’re at risk for blood clots.
Tips to keep leg swelling to minimum when you travel
While some edema when you travel may be inevitable, there are some tricks you can try to keep the leg swelling to a minimum, including:
- Get up and move at least every two hours
- Flex your feet and ankles
- Drink plenty of water
- Avoid salt
- Don’t cross your legs
- Wear compression socks
When you get to your destination, move and stretch and try to elevate your legs to get the swelling down.
If you have more questions about leg swelling when you travel or you’d like to schedule a vein evaluation, please contact one of our offices in Weston or Aventura, Florida, to set up an appointment.