How obesity can lead to leg problems

21st April 2018 by Daryll Baker0

Due to the strain surplus weight puts on the body, obesity has long been associated with putting people at risk of developing certain cancers, heart disease and diabetes. Carrying around dangerously high amounts of fat can also lead to leg problems, including venous disease, lymphedema, circulation problems, varicose veins and issues with the feet.

Varicose veins

Obesity and an inactive lifestyle is linked to causing varicose veins and worsening the condition. Research shows that people who are severely overweight are at greater risk of developing varicose veins. Whilst the exact reason for this remains unclear, it is believed to be due to the fact that obesity negatively affects the blood circulation.

As excessive weight is implicated with a lack of exercise and an immobile lifestyle, the blood does not circulate round the body as efficiently as it should.

As both varicose veins and spider veins are primarily circulatory problems, becoming more active, losing weight and improving the blood circulation, can help prevent the onset of varicose veins and other leg problems.

Blood clots

The risk of developing blood clots, or Deep Vein Thrombosis, is also implicated with obesity. Sitting for long periods, inactive lifestyles and failing to get adequate exercise, means the blood struggles to reach the heart. Consequently, the blood can pool, increasing the risk of clots being formed.

Again, losing weight and becoming more active can improve the circulation, thus making us less prone to blood clots.


Lymphedema occurs when the body pools excessive amounts of lymph fluid in the subcutaneous space. The swelling is most typically seen in the legs and arms, though can affect other parts of the body.

According to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine, 75% of lymphedema incidents are caused by obesity. Excessive fat deposits create pressure on the lymph channels in the body. Such fatty deposits can cause inflammation, which can destroy the lymph vessels, and increase the risk of lymphedema.

Adopting a healthier lifestyle, which combines a well-balanced, low fat diet with exercise, can make us less susceptible to being at risk of vascular conditions and leg problems.

If you would like to advice about treatment for varicose veins and other leg problems, get in touch with the Vascular Consultancy, specialists in treating vascular conditions.

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Daryll Baker is a Consultant Vascular Surgeon at the Royal Free Hospital London and Clinical Lead for North Central Region Vascular Services.

He read Medicine at Oxford University and trained in Vascular Surgery in Nottingham, London and Edinburgh. He obtained his research PhD from the University of Wales.


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