Springing a leak in my leg

Ever head of "leaky legs syndrome?" I hadn't until this weekend.

Woke up Saturday morning with my left ankle soaking wet. Did one of our cats run over that ankle during the night with his or her claws out ad leave a bloody mess? Nope. The liquid on my leg was clear and odorless. It wasn’t sweating or a leaking roof but was a liquid coming out of a split in the skin just above the inside of my ankle. I muttered something obscene and we found several wet shots around where my ankle was laying during the night.

I’ve had circulatory issues since the motorcycle accident in 2012. Most of it involved redness and swelling of both ankles, especially on my right ankle of the leg that was broken so badly that the surgeon who operated on it several times discussed the possibility of amputation below the knee.

Arthritis makes matters worse. So did back pain and sciatica problems that were alleviated with shots into my discs earlier this month. But Saturday morning was the first time that my leg had sprung a leak.

It wasn’t funny. Turns out there is such a thing as “leaking leg syndrome.” That came as a surprise Saturday because no doctor who has treated me over the past decade has mentioned such a medical anomaly.

“Leg edema and discoloration are two primary symptoms of vascular disease,” says The Center for Vascular Medicine.

The Center adds:

Discoloration and edema (swelling) can involve problems with blood circulation in your legs which may include venous disease and/or lymphedema. The drainage of blood back to the heart is provided by the lymphatic systems and the veins in the legs.  The lymphatic system filters clear fluid(lymph) that is outside of the veins back into the venous system to be carried back to the heart.

Another term for leg swelling is “leaky legs.” When you have certain vascular disease types, your legs may swell, starting at the ankles and spreading up your legs, particularly if you don’t seek medical attention as soon as possible. If you have chronic leg swelling, you might have a problem with return blood flow in your veins, resulting in blood accumulating in your legs. In either case, leg swelling can cause pain and discomfort and lead to severe complications.

In cases of vein disease, venous insufficiency, the blood does not drain properly through the veins back to the heart.  Venous insufficiency can be a  result of poor drainage from the superficial veins or from obstruction preventing proper drainage from the deep veins.  The pooling of blood due to improper drainage causes pressure to increase in the veins and fluid is then pushed out of the veins into the tissues under the skin which creates swelling.  This increase in pressure can also put additional strain on the lymphatic system. Edema most often occurs in the lower part of the leg(s) or around the ankle(s).  In most cases, the swelling is worse on one side compared to the other. The swelling will typically increase with periods of long-standing or sitting and often improves with leg elevation. 

I spend a lot of time sitting at a computer, writing stories for various forms of media. I also edit photos and videos that can take hours that lead into days. On Tuesdays of most weeks, I sit on a hard courtroom bench covering the Floyd County Circuit Court.

Over the past nine years, I have spent a lot of time with doctors from Carilion Clinic who have suggested various reasons for what causes the discoloration in my legs but none, to the best of my recollection, have warned me that my legs might spring a leak.

On Monday, I intend to ask our “primary care physician” why that possibility never came up in discussions. Physical therapists tried “support socks” and creams. The socks didn’t work and the legs ignored the cremes.

Since leaving the hospital after several weeks of treatment and recovery of the accident that damn near killed me, I continue to have lingering problems from the injuries that included multiple broken bones, a “traumatic brain injury” (TBI), severe hearing problems, and continued pain that requires a diet of opioids to reduce the pain to a tolerable level.

The springing a leak never came up in discussions of possible symptoms. Neither did a referral to a vascular medicine specialist. The Center for Vascular Medicine website lists my symptoms as positive indicators of “a vascular disorder.” The Center also says delayed action on the problem can result in death.

Sorry, but would like to avoid that and I’d like to see a doctor who might find a way to deal with the problem before it kills me.

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