11 Reasons Why You Have Swollen Feet, Ankles or Legs

The most common cause of swollen feet, ankles, and legs is due to a build-up of fluid in these areas, known as edema. Edema can be caused by a variety of factors, including pregnancy, standing for long periods of time, or certain medical conditions such as heart failure or liver disease. However, it is important to seek medical attention to make an accurate diagnosis. In the meantime, let’s take a look at some potential reasons for your swollen extremities.

1. Pregnancy

During pregnancy, the body produces 50% more blood and body fluids than normal. This increase in fluid volume can cause tissues to swell, especially in the lower extremities. While some swelling is normal during pregnancy, too much can be a sign of preeclampsia, which is a serious condition that can threaten the health of both mother and child.

If you are pregnant and have swollen feet and other symptoms such as headaches, blurred vision, or upper abdominal pain, you should see a doctor immediately, as these could be signs of preeclampsia.

To help reduce swelling during pregnancy, you should avoid standing for long periods of time, wear supportive shoes, and put your feet up when possible. You should also talk to your doctor about diuretics that can help reduce swelling.

2. Standing or sitting for long periods

When you stand or sit for long periods, gravity pulls fluid from your upper body down into your lower extremities. This can cause swelling in the feet, ankles, and legs. To help reduce swelling, try to prop up your feet when sitting and take breaks to walk around every few hours when standing.

3. Eating salty foods

Eating foods high in sodium can cause your body to hold onto extra fluid, which can lead to swelling in the lower extremities. To help reduce swelling, try to limit your intake of salty foods and drinks (such as fast food, chips, and sodas).

ALSO READ: How To Flush Out Sodium From Your Body

4. Obesity

If you are obese, you are more likely to have swelling in your feet and ankles. This is because extra weight puts pressure on your veins and makes it difficult for blood to circulate properly. To combat this, it’s important to maintain a healthy body weight through exercise and a balanced diet.

5. Infection

An infection in the foot or leg can cause inflammation and swelling. If you have an infection, you may also experience fever, redness, warmth, pain, or drainage from the affected area. If you suspect you have an infection, see your healthcare provider right away for treatment.

6. Blood clot

A blood clot can also cause swelling in the legs. If you have a blood clot, you may notice that the swelling is accompanied by redness, warmth, discomfort when standing or walking, and cramping in the leg. If you think you may have a blood clot, you should see a doctor as soon as possible so that it can be treated properly. 

LEARN MORE: 4 Warning Signs of a Blood Clot In Your Leg

7. Kidney disease

One potential cause of swollen feet, ankles, or legs is kidney disease. When the kidneys are not functioning properly, they can retain fluid and cause swelling. Kidney disease can also cause other symptoms, such as fatigue, changes in urine output, shortness of breath, nausea, and vomiting. If you suspect you may have kidney disease, it is necessary to see a doctor to make a proper diagnosis.

8. Liver disease

Liver disease can also cause your body to retain fluid, which can lead to swollen feet, ankles, or legs. Liver disease is often accompanied by other symptoms such as yellowing of the skin (jaundice), fatigue, and weight loss.

9. Heart failure

Heart failure is another possible cause of swollen feet, ankles, or legs. When the heart is not able to pump blood properly, fluid can build up in the extremities and cause swelling. Heart failure can also cause other symptoms, such as shortness of breath, fatigue, and persistent cough or wheezing. If you suspect you may have heart failure, it is important to see a doctor so that a proper diagnosis can be made.

10. Venous insufficiency

This condition occurs when your veins are unable to pump blood back to your heart effectively. This can be due to valve damage, vein wall damage, or decreased muscle tone in your leg muscles. When blood flow is impaired, it can cause swelling in your feet, ankles, or legs. Venous insufficiency can also cause other symptoms, such as pain, itching, and changes in skin color. 

Venous insufficiency is often treated with compression stockings, which help improve circulation by applying gentle pressure to your legs. Exercising and elevating your legs when you’re sitting or lying down can also help reduce swelling.

11. Lymphedema

Lymphedema is a condition that occurs when your lymphatic system doesn’t function properly. This can cause fluid to build up in your tissues and cause swelling. Treatment for lymphedema typically involves wearing compression garments and exercising regularly to help reduce swelling and improve lymphatic function. In some cases, surgery may also be necessary.


If you have swollen feet, ankles, or legs with no apparent explanation, there’s no need to be alarmed—in most cases, it’s nothing serious. However, “if you experience sudden or severe swelling (especially if accompanied by shortness of breath), contact your healthcare provider right away as it could be a sign of a more serious condition such as preeclampsia or a blood clot.”

LEARN MORE: How to Reduce Face Swelling

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