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Leg Swelling: Symptoms & Signs

  • Medical Author: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

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 peripheral 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, venous insufficiency, pregnancy, and medication side effects. Less common causes of leg swelling include blood clots in the leg (deep vein thrombosis), parasite infection, lymphedema, liver disease and cirrhosis, kidney disease and nephrotic syndrome, broken ankle, broken leg, 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.

Related Symptoms & Signs

REFERENCE:

Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/24/2019
Medically Reviewed on 5/24/2019

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