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.

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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
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  10. Jack Long — Live Long, Beat Strong to Find a Cure
  11. Mayo Clinic offers congenital heart care: Marcus' story
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  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
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  24. Deep vein thrombosis (DVT)
  25. Ebstein anomaly
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  27. Flu shots and heart disease
  28. Frequent sex: Does it protect against prostate cancer?
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  33. Healthy Heart for Life!
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  35. Heart disease in women: Understand symptoms and risk factors
  36. Heart-healthy diet: 8 steps to prevent heart disease
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  38. Membranous nephropathy
  39. Menus for heart-healthy eating
  40. Myocarditis
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  42. Nuts and your heart: Eating nuts for heart health
  43. Omega-3 in fish
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  51. What is prostate cancer? A Mayo Clinic expert explains
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  53. Prostate cancer metastasis: Where does prostate cancer spread?
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  58. Put fish on the menu
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