Swelling of the feet, ankles and legs, also called edema, is often caused by an abnormal build-up of fluids in ankle and leg tissues.
Painless swelling of the feet and ankles is a common problem, particularly in older people. It may affect both legs and may include the calves or even the thighs. Because of the effect of gravity, swelling is particularly noticeable in the lower legs.
When squeezed, the fluid will move out of the affected area and may leave a deep impression for a few moments. Swelling of the legs is many times related to other, more serious causes (for example, heart failure, renal failure, or liver failure).
Common causes include:
- Blood pressure-lowering drugs
- Body fluid overload
- Certain antidepressants
- Congestive heart failure
- Diagnostic tests
- Estrogens & progestin contraceptives
- Extremity surgery
- Generalized allergy
- Glomerulonephritis / kidney disorders
- Infiltration of an intravenous site
- Injury or trauma to the ankle or foot
- Insect bite or sting
- Long airplane flights or car rides
- Long-term corticosteroid therapy
- Medical treatments
- Menstrual periods (for some women)
- Pregnancy (mild to severe swelling)
- Prolonged standing
- Starvation or malnutrition
- Venous insufficiency (varicose veins)