What causes lower extremity swelling?

Swelling in the lower leg can mean either possible chronic compartment syndrome of the lower leg or deep vein thrombosis (DVT). With chronic compartment syndrome, the muscles of the lower leg can swell due to the increased compartment pressure. If swelling persists or worsens, medical attention is needed. With a DVT, swelling is caused by a blood clot in the lower leg. This is a potentially life-threatening condition, as the blood clot can dislodge and cause a pulmonary embolism. Medical attention is needed. (This answer provided for NATA by the Eastern University Athletic Training Education Program)
Lower extremity swelling can be caused by trapped fluid. Causes of trapped fluid include:
  • acute kidney failure
  • cardiomyopathy (disease of the heart tissue)
  • chronic kidney failure
  • heart failure
  • hormone therapy
  • lymphedema (blockage in the lymph system)
  • nephrotic syndrome (damage to the vessels in the kidneys)
  • non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
  • pericarditis (swelling around the heart)
  • preeclampsia (pregnancy induced high blood pressure)
  • pregnancy
  • prescription medications
  • prolonged sitting
  • prolonged standing
  • thrombophlebitis (blood clot in the leg)
Also, injuries to the lower extremities, such as a sprain or broken bone, may also cause swelling.

Continue Learning about Heart and Circulatory System

Heart and Circulatory System

Heart and Circulatory System

Your circulatory system is made up of your heart and three main types of blood vessels -- arteries, veins and capillaries. Your heart is at the center of the system, acting as a pump to distribute nutrient- and oxygen-rich blood t...

hrough your body; it then takes away carbon dioxide and other waste your body doesn't need. Signs of poor circulation include cold hands and feet, numbness, dizziness, migraines, varicose veins and pain in your feet or legs. Untreated, poor circulation can lead to stroke, high blood pressure, kidney damage and other diseases. Learn more about your heart and circulatory system with expert advice from Sharecare.

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.