Swelling of the lower legs is common in older adults and is sometimes associated with minor problems, but other potential causes are heart, kidney or liver failure, reports MedlinePlus. For minor problems, elevating the legs or avoiding prolonged standing in the same position often brings relief.
The swelling or edema is due to an abnormal buildup of fluid in the region, reports MedlinePlus. Being overweight increases the chances of suffering the problem. However, blood clots in the knee or infections in the leg can also cause edema. Medications, including antidepressants, some blood pressure pills, hormones and steroids are other common causes of swelling.
The swelling can make legs feel tired and heavy, and the fluid in the legs can weigh up to 10 pounds, indicates MedlinePlus. If edema becomes severe, it can interfere with circulation and cause ulcers to develop on the leg.
Patients suffering leg edema along with difficulty breathing, chest pain, confusion, dizziness or fainting should seek immediate medical care, warns Mayo Clinic. Such additional symptoms could indicate a blood clot in the lungs or a serious heart condition. Patients who suffer swelling of the lower leg after physical injury should also seek emergency care. A patients who believes the swelling is due to a prescription medication should schedule an appointment with his doctor but continue taking the medication unless the doctor tells him to discontinue it.