July 1, 2015

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Leg Swelling

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Leg swelling generally occurs because of an abnormal accumulation of fluid in the tissues of the lower extremity. The medical term for leg swelling from excessive fluid in the tissues is edema. Persisting indentation of a swollen leg after pressure from a finger is known as pitting edema.

Common causes of leg swelling include salt retention, cellulitis, congestive heart failure, and medication side effects. Less common causes of leg swelling include blood clots in the leg (thrombosis), parasite infection, lymphedema, liver disease, kidney disease, and diseases that cause thickness of the layers of skin, such as scleroderma and eosinophilic fasciitis. In these diseases, the leg swelling is typically characterized by nonpitting edema. When leg swelling occurs for unknown reasons, it is referred to as idiopathic edema.

Symptoms that can be associated with leg swelling include leg pain, numbness, redness, itching, rash, shortness of breath, and ulceration of the skin.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/23/2015

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REFERENCE:

Longo, D.L., et al. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 18th ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Professional, 2011.

Causes of Leg Swelling
    • Baker Cyst A Baker cyst, also called a popliteal cyst, is swelling caused by knee joint fluid protruding to the back of the knee (popliteal...learn more »
      In This Article
      Baker Cyst Article
      • Baker cyst facts
      • What is a Baker cyst?
      • What causes a Baker cyst?
      • What are symptoms and signs of a Baker cyst?
      • How is a Baker cyst diagnosed?
      • How is a Baker cyst treated?
      • What is the prognosis for a Baker cyst?
      • Is it possible to prevent a Baker cyst?
    • Cellulitis Cellulitis is an acute spreading bacterial infection below the surface of the skin characterized by redness, warmth,...learn more »
    • Cirrhosis (Liver) Cirrhosis of the liver refers to a disease in which normal liver cells are replaced by scar tissue caused by alcohol and viral...learn more »
    • Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) Congestive heart failure (CHF) refers to a condition in which the heart loses the ability to function properly. Heart disease,...learn more »
      In This Article
      Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) Article
      • Congestive heart failure facts
      • What is congestive heart failure (CHF)?
      • What causes congestive heart failure?
      • What are the signs and symptoms of congestive heart failure?
      • What are the risk factors for congestive heart failure?
      • How is congestive heart failure diagnosed?
      • What is the treatment for congestive heart failure?
      • What lifestyle changes can help treat congestive heart failure?
      • Diet
      • Exercise
      • Fluid regulation
      • Maintaining weight
      • What is the long term prognosis for patients with congestive heart failure?
      • Can congestive heart failure be prevented?
    • Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a blood clot in the deep veins, and can be caused by broken bones, trauma to a limb, immobility,...learn more »
      In This Article
      Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) Article
      • Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) facts
      • Introduction to deep vein thrombosis (DVT)
      • What are the causes of deep vein thrombosis (DVT)?
      • What are the symptoms of deep vein thrombosis (DVT)?
      • When should I seek medical care for deep vein thrombosis (DVT)?
      • How is deep vein thrombosis diagnosed (DVT)?
      • What is the treatment for deep vein thrombosis (DVT)?
      • Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) medications
      • Surgery for deep vein thrombosis (DVT)
      • What are the complications of deep vein thrombosis (DVT)?
      • Can deep vein thrombosis (DVT) be prevented?
    • Eosinophilic Fasciitis Eosinophilic fasciitis is a skin disease that causes thickening and inflammation of the skin and fascia. Symptoms include...learn more »
      In This Article
      Eosinophilic Fasciitis Article
      • What are eosinophils?
      • What is fascia?
      • What is eosinophilic fasciitis?
      • What causes eosinophilic fasciitis?
      • What are symptoms and signs of eosinophilic fasciitis?
      • How is eosinophilic fasciitis diagnosed?
      • What is the treatment for eosinophilic fasciitis?
      • What is the prognosis (outlook) for eosinophilic fasciitis?
      • Can eosinophilic fasciitis be prevented?
    • Hematoma A hematoma is a collection of blood that is outside a blood vessel. There are different areas where hematomas occur including the...learn more »
    • Iliotibial Band Syndrome Iliotibial band syndrome is an overuse injury of the thigh and knee. Symptoms include knee pain and possible swelling. Treatment...learn more »
      In This Article
      Iliotibial Band Syndrome Article
      • Iliotibial band syndrome facts
      • What is iliotibial band syndrome?
      • What causes iliotibial band syndrome?
      • What are iliotibial band syndrome symptoms and signs?
      • How is iliotibial band syndrome diagnosed?
      • What is the treatment for iliotibial band syndrome?
      • What stretches and exercises are beneficial for iliotibial band syndrome?
      • What exercises should be avoided with iliotibial band syndrome?
      • What is the prognosis for iliotibial band syndrome? Can iliotibial band syndrome be prevented?
      • Where can people find more information about iliotibial band syndrome?
    • Kidney Failure Kidney failure can occur from an acute event or a chronic condition or disease. Prerenal kidney failure is caused by blood loss,...learn more »
    • Lymphedema Lymphedema is a condition in which one or more extremities become swollen as the result of an impaired flow of the lymphatic...learn more »
      In This Article
      Lymphedema Article
      • Lymphedema facts
      • What is lymphedema?
      • What does lymphedema look like (pictures)?
      • What causes lymphedema?
      • What are the symptoms of lymphedema?
      • How is lymphedema diagnosed?
      • What are possible treatments for lymphedema?
      • What are complications of lymphedema?
      • Can lymphedema be prevented?
      • What is the prognosis for lymphedema?
      • Where can one get help and support for lymphedema?
    • Ovarian Cancer There are many types of ovarian cancer, epithelial carcinoma is the most common. Women with a family history of ovarian cancer...learn more »
      In This Article
      Ovarian Cancer Article
      • What is ovarian cancer?
      • Epithelial ovarian cancer
      • Borderline ovarian tumors
      • Germ cell ovarian cancers
      • Stromal ovarian cancers
      • What are ovarian cancer statistics?
      • What are ovarian cancer risk factors?
      • What are ovarian cancer symptoms and signs?
      • How is ovarian cancer diagnosed?
      • How is ovarian cancer staging determined?
      • What is the treatment for ovarian cancer?
      • What is the survival rate and prognosis of ovarian cancer?
      • Can ovarian cancer be prevented?
    • Phlebitis Phlebitis is the inflammation of a vein. Thrombophlebitis is when a blood clot causes the inflammation. Phlebitis can be...learn more »
      In This Article
      Phlebitis Article
      • Phlebitis facts
      • What is phlebitis and thrombophlebitis?
      • What causes phlebitis?
      • What are the risk factors for phlebitis?
      • What are the symptoms of phlebitis?
      • How is phlebitis diagnosed?
      • How is phlebitis treated?
      • What are the complications of phlebitis?
      • Can phlebitis be prevented?
    • Preeclampsia (Pregnancy Induced Hypertension) Preeclampsia is related to increased blood pressure and protein in the mother's urine. Preeclampsia typically begins after the...learn more »
      In This Article
      Preeclampsia (Pregnancy Induced Hypertension) Article
      • Preeclampsia Facts*
      • What Is High Blood Pressure?
      • What Are the Effects of High Blood Pressure in Pregnancy?
      • What Is Preeclampsia?
      • How Common Are High Blood Pressure and Preeclampsia in Pregnancy?
      • Who Is More Likely to Develop Preeclampsia?
      • What Are the Symptoms of Preeclampsia and How Is It Detected?
      • How Can Women with High Blood Pressure Prevent Problems During Pregnancy?
      • Does Hypertension or Preeclampsia During Pregnancy Cause Long-Term Heart and Blood Vessel Problems?
    • Scleroderma Scleroderma is an autoimmune disease of the connective tissue. It is characterized by the formation of scar tissue (fibrosis) in...learn more »
      In This Article
      Scleroderma Article
      • Scleroderma facts
      • What is scleroderma?
      • What causes scleroderma?
      • What are risk factors for developing scleroderma?
      • How is scleroderma classified?
      • What are scleroderma symptoms and signs?
      • How is scleroderma diagnosed?
      • What is the treatment for scleroderma?
      • What is the prognosis (outlook) for patients with scleroderma?
      • Can scleroderma be prevented?
Other Causes of Leg Swelling
  • Idiopathic Edema (Swelling of Unknown Cause, Typically in Women)
  • Leg Vein Obstruction
  • Liver Failure
  • Medications
  • Nephrotic Syndrome
  • Salt Retention
  • Trauma Injury (Contusion)
Examples of Medications for Leg Swelling
  • furosemide, Lasix
  • hydrochlorothiazide, (Hydrodiuril, Ezide, Hydro-Par [discontinued]), Microzide, and many others
  • triamterene and hydrochlorothiazide


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