Many factors — varying greatly in severity — can cause leg swelling.

Leg swelling related to fluid buildup

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 venous circulation system, the lymphatic system or the kidneys.

Leg swelling isn't always a sign of a heart or circulation problem. You can have swelling due to fluid buildup simply from being overweight, being inactive, sitting or standing for a long time, or wearing tight stockings or jeans.

Factors related to fluid buildup include:

  1. Acute kidney failure
  2. Cardiomyopathy (problem with the heart muscle)
  3. Chemotherapy
  4. Chronic kidney disease
  5. Cirrhosis (scarring of the liver)
  6. Deep vein thrombosis (DVT)
  7. Heart failure
  8. Hormone therapy
  9. Lymphedema (blockage in the lymph system)
  10. Nephrotic syndrome (damage to small filtering blood vessels in the kidneys)
  11. Obesity
  12. Pain relievers, such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB) or naproxen (Aleve)
  13. Pericarditis (inflammation of the tissue around the heart)
  14. Pregnancy
  15. Prescription medications, including some used for diabetes and high blood pressure
  16. Pulmonary hypertension
  17. Sitting for a long time, such as during airline flights
  18. Standing for a long time
  19. Thrombophlebitis (a blood clot that usually occurs in the leg)
  20. Venous insufficiency, chronic (leg veins with a problem returning blood to the heart)

Leg swelling related to inflammation

Leg swelling can also be caused by inflammation in leg joints or tissues — either a normal response to injury or disease or due to rheumatoid arthritis or another inflammatory disorder. You'll usually feel pain with inflammatory disorders.

Conditions that can contribute to inflammation in the leg include:

  1. Achilles tendon rupture
  2. ACL injury (tearing of the anterior cruciate ligament in your knee)
  3. Baker cyst
  4. Broken ankle
  5. Broken foot
  6. Broken leg
  7. Burns
  8. Cellulitis (a skin infection)
  9. Knee bursitis (inflammation of fluid-filled sacs in the knee joint)
  10. Osteoarthritis (disease causing the breakdown of joints)
  11. Rheumatoid arthritis (inflammatory joint disease)
  12. Sprained ankle

Causes shown here are commonly associated with this symptom. Work with your doctor or other health care professional for an accurate diagnosis.

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March 05, 2022

See also

  1. ACL injury
  2. Acute kidney failure
  3. Anorexia nervosa
  4. Arteriovenous fistula
  5. Atrial septal defect (ASD)
  6. Baker cyst
  7. Behcet's disease
  8. Blood tests for heart disease
  9. Jack Long — Live Long, Beat Strong to Find a Cure
  10. Mayo Clinic offers congenital heart care: Marcus' story
  11. Treating Pericarditis
  12. Valve problems in children with heart disease: What patients and families should know
  13. Can vitamins help prevent a heart attack?
  14. Cardiomyopathy
  15. Chelation therapy for heart disease: Does it work?
  16. Cirrhosis
  17. What is cirrhosis? A Mayo Clinic expert explains
  18. Cirrhosis FAQs
  19. What are congenital heart defects? An expert explains
  20. Congenital heart defects in children
  21. Congenital heart defects FAQs
  22. Daily aspirin therapy
  23. Deep vein thrombosis (DVT)
  24. Ebstein anomaly
  25. Fasting diet: Can it improve my heart health?
  26. Flu shots and heart disease
  27. Frequent sex: Does it protect against prostate cancer?
  28. Grass-fed beef
  29. Hamstring injury
  30. Hashimoto's disease
  31. Healthy eating: One step at a time
  32. Healthy Heart for Life!
  33. Heart disease
  34. Heart disease in women: Understand symptoms and risk factors
  35. Heart-healthy diet: 8 steps to prevent heart disease
  36. Knee pain
  37. Membranous nephropathy
  38. Menus for heart-healthy eating
  39. Myocarditis
  40. Neuroblastoma
  41. Nuts and your heart: Eating nuts for heart health
  42. Omega-3 in fish
  43. Omega-6 fatty acids
  44. Pericarditis
  45. Polypill: Does it treat heart disease?
  46. Pomegranate juice: A cure for prostate cancer?
  47. Prostate Cancer
  48. Prostate cancer
  49. Prostate cancer: Does PSA level affect prognosis?
  50. Infographic: Prostate Cancer: Choline c-11
  51. Prostate cancer metastasis: Where does prostate cancer spread?
  52. Prostate cancer prevention
  53. Prostate cancer treatment: Does initial treatment preclude others later?
  54. Protein: Heart-healthy sources
  55. Pulmonary embolism
  56. Put fish on the menu
  57. Red wine, antioxidants and resveratrol
  58. Heart disease prevention
  59. Swollen knee
  60. Varicose veins
  61. Ventricular septal defect (VSD)
  62. Endovenous thermal ablation
  63. Video: Heart and circulatory system
  64. Warfarin side effects
  65. Watch an interview with Fernando C Fervenza MD PhD
  66. Wilson's disease
  67. Infographic: Women and Heart Disease