Fat legs - causes, symptoms, therapy

Fat legs - causes, symptoms, therapy

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Swollen legs or thick legs can have a variety of causes, including vascular diseases such as venous insufficiency or diseases of the lymphatic system, but also chronic circulatory disorders and cardiac and kidney diseases. Since the swollen limbs can be an expression of serious illnesses, therapeutic help should be used in any case.


Basically, the thick legs are divided into two different categories according to their causes. On the one hand the fat legs caused by fat deposits, on the other hand the leg swelling caused by a backflow of body fluids. The latter is also colloquially referred to as “water in the legs”. The fat distribution disorders can in turn cause the formation of fluid in the tissue, so that both factors often occur in parallel.

Swollen legs: symptoms

The term fat legs also describes their main symptom. The localization and spread of the swelling can vary significantly depending on the causes, but usually thick legs are swollen from the foot upwards. Liquid collects between the tissue and skin, causing the limbs to increase in size significantly. Other possible complaints related to swollen legs are, for example

  • Swelling in the feet or toes,
  • a feeling of heaviness in the legs,
  • Tightness in the legs,
  • Movement is restricted,
  • Pain in the legs,
  • recurrent infections,
  • Thickening of the skin (fibrosis).

When the legs are put up, the swelling often goes back in a relatively short time. Those affected particularly often suffer from swollen feet, ankles and lower legs after a whole day of standing or sitting. The monotonous load builds up blood in the leg veins and the fluid in the tissue. If the legs are raised and / or cooled, the blood can flow back towards the heart more easily and the swelling subsides. However, the thick legs can also take on a kind of chronic course, which means that those affected suffer from swollen legs almost every evening or during the day - often accompanied by spider veins or varicose veins. In such cases, therapeutic measures should be taken urgently. In addition, if the skin begins to change color, if pain occurs at the same time or if only one leg is swollen, there is no way around visiting a doctor. Sudden acute leg swelling is particularly critical. These require a medical examination as soon as possible.

In principle, the whole leg can swell up to the hip, but in most cases the swelling is limited to the area of ​​the feet and ankle up to the lower leg. The swelling can cause a feeling of tension in the legs and possibly a slight feeling of numbness. Restrictions on mobility are also not uncommon. Depending on the causes of leg swelling, the edema (fluid retention) occurs in very different forms overall. Therefore, the corresponding symptoms for the different triggers of the thick legs are explained in more detail. (fp)

Due to the numerous different causes, diagnosis and treatment options that can be considered for swollen legs, this article is divided into the following categories:

  • Fat legs due to venous disease
  • Infections, diseases of the lymphatic vessels and organs
  • Other causes of swollen legs
  • Diagnosis of swollen legs
  • Treatment of thick legs

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

Dipl. Geogr. Fabian Peters


  • Mayo Clinic: Lymphedema - Symptoms & causes (accessed: October 7, 2019),
  • Caitriona Canning, John R Bartholomew: Lipedema, Vascular Medicine, Sage Journal, Issue 23, November 2017,
  • Professional association of German internists e.V .: edema - first signs & symptoms (accessed: 07.10.2019),
  • Peter Fritsch: Dermatology Venereology, Springer, 2nd edition, 2003
  • Wolfram Sterry: Short Textbook Dermatology, Thieme, 2nd edition, 2018
  • Gerd Herold: Internal Medicine 2019, self-published, 2018

Video: Lymphedema Surgery. Qu0026A (December 2022).