Swelling (Edema) of the Legs & Ankles

Leg swelling can occur in any part of the legs, including the feet, ankles, calves or thighs. Leg swelling can result either from fluid buildup (fluid retention) or from inflammation in injured or diseased tissues or joints.

Many of the causes of leg swelling, such as prolonged standing or sitting or an injury, are relatively harmless in the long term, and your doctor often can easily identify the reason for the problem. Sometimes, however, leg swelling may be a sign of a more serious disorder, such as heart disease or a blood clot. It's important to seek prompt diagnosis and treatment when leg swelling occurs for no apparent reason or is accompanied by apparently unrelated symptoms, such as breathing difficulties or chest pain.

Leg swelling caused by the buildup of fluids in leg tissues is known as peripheral edema. Several body systems help maintain the appropriate balance of fluids, including the circulatory system, the lymphatic system and the kidneys. A problem with any one of these systems may contribute to the buildup of fluids. Gravity can also contribute to the accumulation of fluids in your lower limbs, particularly with prolonged standing or sitting.

Leg swelling due to trapped fluids can be caused by a myriad of factors.

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