Leg swelling can occur in any part of the legs, including the feet, ankles, calves and thighs. Leg swelling can result either from fluid buildup (fluid retention) or from inflammation in injured or diseased tissues or joints.
Many of the causes of leg swelling, such as an injury or prolonged standing or sitting, are easily identified. Sometimes leg swelling may be a sign of a more-serious disorder, such as heart disease or a blood clot.
Seek medical care right away when leg swelling occurs for no apparent reason or you also have difficulty breathing, chest pain or other warning signs of a blood clot in your lungs or a serious heart condition.
Many factors — varying greatly in seriousness — can cause leg swelling.
Leg swelling caused by the retention of fluid in leg tissues is known as peripheral edema. It can be caused by a problem with the circulatory system, the lymphatic system or the kidneys.
Leg swelling isn't always a sign of a heart or circulation problem. You may often experience swelling due to fluid buildup from being overweight, being inactive, after sitting or standing for a long time, or wearing tight stockings.
Factors related to fluid buildup include:
Leg swelling can also be caused by inflammation in leg tissues. Inflammation may be a normal response to injury or disease, or it may be due to rheumatoid arthritis or another inflammatory disorder. You will usually feel some pain with inflammation.
Factors that can contribute to inflammation in the leg include:
Seek emergency medical care if you have leg swelling and any of the following signs or symptoms, which may indicate a blood clot in your lungs or a serious heart condition:
Also, seek immediate care if your leg swelling:
Nonemergency problems related to leg swelling still need prompt care. Leg swelling that is the side effect of a drug can look just like leg swelling caused by a kidney disorder. Make an appointment as soon as possible so that your doctor can diagnose the underlying problem.
Before your appointment, consider the following tips: