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Foot and Leg Swelling Causes: When to Worry

March 18, 2024

Foot and Leg Swelling Causes: When to Worry

Many people have had the experience where the simple act of tripping over something causes ankle swelling.  When is this just a minor irritant, and when should you worry?  Here are some foot and leg swelling causes as well as how serious they are.

Excess standing or walking

People who are on their feet all day may find their ankles to swell by evening.  This is natural and not cause for concern.  If this happens repeatedly and is interfering with your everyday life, talk to your doctor about treatment options.

Foot or ankle injury

Spraining or twisting an ankle often causes swelling.  This can be treated at home with ice packs, compression bandages, and rest.  Breaking a bone in the foot or ankle may also cause swelling, but the pain would be much more severe than a sprained ankle.  Visit a doctor if you have intense pain or if the swelling does not improve with home treatment.


Many people experience swelling of the feet and legs with pregnancy.  This is probably not a cause for concern.  The only time it would be is if the swelling appears rapidly and is excessive.  This may be a sign of preeclampsia, especially if it is accompanied by other symptoms like:

·    Abdominal pain

·    Headache

·    Nausea

·    Vomiting

·    Infrequent urination

·    Dizziness or vision changes

If symptoms like these appear, contact your doctor as soon as possible.


Infections of the feet can cause ankle swelling.  These are more common in people with diabetes.  Diabetics should check their feet daily for any blisters or sores as they may not feel them due to nerve damage.  Any infections should be reported to a doctor as soon as possible so it does not spread or get worse.

Blood clot

Blood clots may also cause swelling.  Clots in the leg veins may create swelling in the ankles and feet.  Blood clots can be a problem depending on their size.  A large clot could be life threatening if it travels to the heart or lungs.  If you experience ankle swelling with any of the following symptoms, contact a doctor immediately:

·    Swelling in only one leg

·    Pain

·    Low fever

·    Change in color of the leg

Heart, liver, or kidney disease

If your ankles swell a lot in the evening, this may be due to retention of excess salt and water.  This may be a sign of heart disease.  Both the kidneys and liver help regulate the body by flushing out excess.  Swelling is a sign of built up fluid, which may mean you have a disease in one of these organs.  Swelling by itself is not usually a sign of heart, liver, or kidney disease.  However, people with swelling that also experience a loss of appetite, weight gain, and fatigue should talk to a doctor.  Shortness of breath or chest pain should always trigger a 911 call.

Side effects from medication

Many medicines have swelling as a side effect. These include

·         Hormones like estrogen and testosterone

·         Calcium channel blockers (blood pressure medication)

·         Steroids

·         Antidepressants

·         Anti-inflammatory drugs

·         Diabetes medicines

If you take one of these medications and think it may be causing swelling or other side effects, talk to your doctor about if the medicine is still right for you.

Get diagnosed fast at BASS Advanced Urgent Care

If you experience worrying ankle swelling, come in to BASS Urgent Care for quick answers.  Most patients are in and out within an hour.  Call (925) 329-3718 to schedule an appointment, or just walk in anytime from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday.

At BASS Primary Care Walk-in Clinic, it's Your Health, Your Schedule.