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August 19, 2002

Aches and Pains

Question from Killeen, Texas, USA:

I am 42 years old, I've had type 1 diabetes for more than 15 years, and my knees have been swollen for three days ever since I had to sit for an eight-hour class one day and again for four hours the next day. I have mostly been off of them for two days, but they have not gotten any better. In fact, they are only swelling more which is is really scaring me. What can be causing it? Should I rush to the doctor? I am very afraid. I want to keep my legs.

Answer:

It is important for you to contact your physician to discuss these symptoms. In trying to determine the cause of your swelling, it is important to keep in mind conditions that need to be diagnosed quickly.

One of those is the diagnosis of clots in the venous system of the legs. Predisposition to leg clots occurs in women on estrogen, people who have been sitting for a long time, or who have had damage to the venous circulation of the legs. This is important to diagnose as these clots can break off and travel to the lungs and cause a medical emergency. The risk of traveling to the lungs is increased if the clot extends above the knee. This needs to be evaluated in conjunction with your physician. There can be other causes of edema, including a switch in blood pressure medications, a high salt intake, and others.

JTL

[Editor’s comment: It should be added that your symptoms are not typical of diabetes-related problems.

WWQ]