Foot, leg, and ankle swelling - Overview
Swelling of the ankles - feet - legs; Ankle swelling; Foot swelling; Leg swelling; Edema - peripheral; Peripheral edema
Definition of Foot, leg, and ankle swelling:
Painless swelling of the feet and ankles is a common problem, especially among older people.
Abnormal buildup of fluid in the ankles, feet, and legs is called edema.
Painless swelling may affect both legs and may include the calves or even the thighs. Because of the effect of gravity, swelling is particularly noticeable in the lower part of the body.
Foot, leg, and ankle swelling is common with the following situations:
Injury or surgery involving the leg, ankle, or foot can cause swelling. Swelling may also occur after pelvic surgery, especially for cancer.
Long airplane flights or car rides, as well as standing for long periods of time, often lead to some swelling in the feet and ankles.
Swelling may occur in women who take estrogen or during parts of the menstrual cycle. Most women have some swelling during pregnancy. More severe swelling during pregnancy may be a sign of preeclampsia (also called toxemia), a serious condition that includes high blood pressure and swelling.
Swollen legs may be a sign of heart failure, kidney failure, or liver failure. In these conditions, there is too much fluid in the body.
Certain medications may also cause your legs to swell:
- Antidepressants, including MAO inhibitors (such as phenelzine and tranylcypromine) and tricyclics (such as nortriptyline, desipramine, and amitriptyline)
- Blood pressure medicines called calcium channel blockers (such as nifedipine, amlodipine, diltiazem, felodipine, and verapamil)
- Hormones like estrogen (in birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy) and testosterone
- Reviewed last on: 5/29/2011
- David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
Fang JC, O'Gara PT. The physical examination: an evidence-based approach. In: Bonow RO, Mann DL, Zipes DP, Libby P, eds. Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 9th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 12.
Goldman L. Approach to the patient with possible cardiovascular disease. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 48.
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