What is leg swelling?

Leg swelling is a sign of fluid buildup or inflammation of the tissues or joints of the leg. Swelling can occur anywhere along the leg, including the thighs, knees, calves, ankles and feet. Mild swelling is a common occurrence after standing for a long time, especially in warm weather.

Learn More About Leg Swelling

Leg swelling, which is also called edema, can result from serious infections, trauma, circulatory disorders, cardiac (heart) disorders, and other abnormal processes.

The influence of gravity on human anatomy affects the lower extremities differently than the upper extremities. Extreme leg swelling caused by poor circulation may appear minimal (or absent) in the arms. For the same reason, minimizing the amount of time spent standing and maximizing time reclining can often alleviate this type of leg swelling.

Depending on the cause, leg swelling can last for a short time and disappear quickly, such as when it occurs after standing for a long time or sitting during a long airline flight. Chronic leg swelling, or leg swelling that builds up over time, often indicates a potentially serious disorder, such as congestive heart failure or cardiovascular disease. Leg swelling can also be caused by orthopedic conditions, such as a bone fracture or a cast that is too tight.

Because leg swelling can be a symptom of a life-threatening condition, you should seek prompt medical care and talk with your medical professional about your symptoms. If you experience leg swelling with chest pain, dizziness, confusion, shortness of breath, or any difficulty breathing, seek immediate medical care (call 911).


What other symptoms might occur with leg swelling?

Leg swelling may be accompanied by other symptoms depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. For example, leg swelling due to congestive heart failure may occur with shortness of breath. Leg swelling due to an infection may be accompanied by fever, redness and warmth around the affected area. Read more about leg swellingsymptoms


What causes leg swelling?

Leg swelling can be caused by relatively minor conditions, such as standing for too long. Leg swelling can also be caused by a wide variety of diseases, disorders and conditions that include infections, inflammation, trauma, heart disease, and other abnormal processes.

In some cases, leg swelling is a ... Read more about leg swellingcauses

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Sep 6, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Bones, Joints and Muscles

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