When to see a doctor

By Mayo Clinic Staff

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:

  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Shortness of breath with exertion or lying flat in bed
  • Fainting or dizziness
  • Coughing blood

Also, seek immediate care if your leg swelling:

  • Occurs suddenly and for no apparent reason
  • Is related to a physical injury, such as from a fall, a sports injury or a car accident
  • Occurs in one leg and is painful, or is accompanied by cool, pale skin

Schedule a doctor's visit

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:

  • Restrict the amount of salt in your diet.
  • Put a pillow under your legs when lying down, which may lessen swelling related to the buildup of fluid.
  • Wear elastic compression stockings, but avoid stockings that are tight around the top (if you can see the indentation from the elastic, they may be too tight).
  • If you need to stand or sit for long periods, give yourself frequent breaks and move around, unless the movement causes pain.
  • Don't stop taking a prescription medication without talking to your doctor, even if you suspect it may be causing leg swelling.
  • Over-the-counter (nonprescription) pain medication may lessen painful swelling.
Jan. 11, 2018

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