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
  11. Rheumatoid arthritis
  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.

From Mayo Clinic to your inbox

Sign up for free and stay up to date on research advancements, health tips, current health topics, and expertise on managing health. Click here for an email preview.

To provide you with the most relevant and helpful information, and understand which information is beneficial, we may combine your email and website usage information with other information we have about you. If you are a Mayo Clinic patient, this could include protected health information. If we combine this information with your protected health information, we will treat all of that information as protected health information and will only use or disclose that information as set forth in our notice of privacy practices. You may opt-out of email communications at any time by clicking on the unsubscribe link in the e-mail.

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