Many factors — varying greatly in seriousness — 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 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:

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

  1. Achilles tendon rupture
  2. ACL injury (tearing of the anterior cruciate ligament in your knee)
  3. Baker's cyst
  4. Broken foot
  5. Broken leg
  6. Cellulitis (a skin infection)
  7. Gout (arthritis related to excess uric acid)
  8. Infection or wound in the leg
  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.

Jan. 11, 2018

See also

  1. ACL injury
  2. Acute kidney failure
  3. Anorexia nervosa
  4. Arteriovenous fistula
  5. Atrial septal defect (ASD)
  6. Baker's cyst
  7. Behcet's disease
  8. Blood tests for heart disease
  9. Ebstein Anomaly
  10. Ebstein Anomaly Part Two: Patient Frequently Asked Questions
  11. Fact or Fiction? Debunking Exercise & Nutrition Myths for Preventing Heart Disease and Risk Factors
  12. Giant Cell Myocarditis
  13. Healthy Heart Numbers
  14. Heart disease in women
  15. Jack Long — Live Long, Beat Strong to Find a Cure
  16. Mayo Clinic offers congenital heart care: Marcus' story
  17. Sports Cardiology Program
  18. Treating Pericarditis
  19. Valve problems in children with heart disease: What patients and families should know
  20. Can vitamins help prevent a heart attack?
  21. Cardiomyopathy
  22. Chelation therapy for heart disease: Does it work?
  23. Cirrhosis
  24. Congenital heart defects in children
  25. Control your portions, control your weight
  26. Daily aspirin therapy
  27. Deep vein thrombosis
  28. Ebstein anomaly
  29. Fasting diet: Can it improve my heart health?
  30. Flaxseed: Does it affect risk of prostate cancer?
  31. Flu shots and heart disease
  32. Frequent sex: Does it protect against prostate cancer?
  33. Grass-fed beef
  34. Hamstring injury
  35. Hashimoto's disease
  36. Healthy eating: One step at a time
  37. Healthy Heart for Life!
  38. Healthy heart for life: Avoiding heart disease
  39. Heart disease
  40. Heart disease in women: Understand symptoms and risk factors
  41. Heart-healthy diet: 8 steps to prevent heart disease
  42. Knee pain
  43. Membranous nephropathy
  44. Menus for heart-healthy eating
  45. Myocarditis
  46. Neuroblastoma
  47. Nuts and your heart: Eating nuts for heart health
  48. Omega-3 in fish
  49. Omega-6 fatty acids
  50. Osgood-Schlatter disease
  51. Pericarditis
  52. Polypill: Does it treat heart disease?
  53. Pomegranate juice: A cure for prostate cancer?
  54. Posterior cruciate ligament injury
  55. Prostate cancer
  56. Prostate cancer brachytherapy: Can I pass radiation to others?
  57. Infographic: Prostate Cancer: Choline c-11
  58. Prostate cancer: Does PSA level affect prognosis?
  59. Prostate cancer metastasis: Where does prostate cancer spread?
  60. Prostate cancer prevention
  61. Prostate cancer treatment: Does initial treatment preclude others later?
  62. Protein: Heart-healthy sources
  63. Pulmonary embolism
  64. Put fish on the menu
  65. Red wine, antioxidants and resveratrol
  66. Sodium: Smarten up
  67. Spider vein removal
  68. Heart disease prevention
  69. Swollen knee
  70. Infographic: The blueprints to your heart
  71. Varicose veins
  72. Vasectomy: Does it increase my risk of prostate cancer?
  73. Ventricular septal defect
  74. Arthroscopic knee surgery
  75. Endovenous thermal ablation
  76. Video: Heart and circulatory system
  77. Warfarin side effects
  78. Watch an interview with Fernando C Fervenza MD PhD
  79. Wilson's disease
  80. Infographic: Women and Heart Disease