What will the doctor do?
Your doctor will want more information about the swelling in your leg(s). For example, when it started, if it hurts and whether it comes and goes or stays much the same. They will also want to know if you have been on any recent long journeys or had any times when you were not very mobile recently, and if you are on any medicines.
The doctor will examine your legs and then may go on to examine other areas. This might include your chest and/or tummy and groins.
Will I have to have any tests?
This will depend on the information the doctor has obtained by listening to you and examining you. In some cases, no further tests will be needed. In others, tests will be advised. These might include:
- Testing your urine. This can usually be done in the doctor's office. The urine is tested with a dipstick to see if there is any protein in it, which might suggest a kidney problem, for example.
- Blood tests. You might have blood tests to check you for anaemia, heart failure or a DVT. Tests may be done to check the function of your kidney, liver or thyroid gland.
- A chest X-ray. This would check you for conditions such as heart failure or a pulmonary embolism.
- An ultrasound scan of the leg. This can look at the nature of the swelling and establish where it is coming from. It can be helpful to diagnose tendon problems (such as Achilles tendinopathy), DVT and other problems in the veins of the legs.
- An X-ray if a fracture or infection of the bone is suspected.
Depending on the results of these tests, other investigations may be needed in some cases.
Further reading and references
Management of chronic heart failure; Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network - SIGN (2016)
Trayes KP, Studdiford JS, Pickle S, et al; Edema: diagnosis and management. Am Fam Physician. 2013 Jul 1588(2):102-10.
Wiig H, Swartz MA; Interstitial fluid and lymph formation and transport: physiological regulation and roles in inflammation and cancer. Physiol Rev. 2012 Jul92(3):1005-60. doi: 10.1152/physrev.00037.2011.
Deep vein thrombosis; NICE CKS, April 2013 (UK access only)
Cellulitis - acute; NICE CKS, July 2015 (UK access only)
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