Reasons for Leg & Ankle Swelling

Written by jessica lietz
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Reasons for Leg & Ankle Swelling
Swelling in the leg and ankle can result in pain and difficulty with movement. (feet image by Mat Hayward from

Swelling in the legs might involve the thigh, knees or calves, as well as the ankles. Although most of the time, swelling of the legs and ankles will resolve without medical treatment, sometimes the condition is the result of a more serious medical problem that requires care. Fortunately, most of the reasons for leg and ankle swelling are preventable and treatable with lifestyle changes and medical care.

Cardiovascular Disorders

Swelling that develops in both legs or both ankles often results from a cardiovascular disorder, although a blood clot can cause swelling in the leg and ankle on just one side of the body. Conditions directly involving the heart, including pericarditis, cardiomyopathy and heart failure can result in swelling in the legs and ankles. Disorders of the veins, such as thrombophlebitis, chronic venous insufficiency and vericose veins might also result in leg and ankle swelling. In addition, leg and ankle swelling can occur as a result of infections in a vein or in the heart.

Medical Conditions

Disorders of the kidneys, including kidney failure or nephrotic syndrome, are medical reasons for swelling in the legs and ankles. In addition, injuries to the legs or ankles, such as sunburn, insect bites, a broken bone, ruptured tendon, gout, arthritis or bursitis can also cause ankle and leg swelling. Blockages of the lymph nodes in the groin or legs can cause leg and ankle swelling, as can recent surgery to the leg or foot. Leg and ankle swelling might also result from medical problems with the liver, such as cirrhosis or liver failure. In addition, women with premenstrual syndrome can develop leg and ankle swelling just before or during their periods.


Sitting or standing for a long period of time can allow fluid to accumulate in the legs and ankles, resulting in swelling. People using hormone therapy or medications for diabetes, hypertension and depression can also experience swelling of the legs and ankles, as can people taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory pain relief medications such as ibuprofen or naproxen sodium. Being overweight or obese can result in swelling of the legs and ankles; on the other hand, starvation or malnutrition can also cause ankle or leg swelling. Mild swelling in the ankles and legs often develops during the last months of pregnancy, and can be worse during hot or humid weather.

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