Leg Swelling in a Single Leg

Swelling of the arms, feet, ankles, and legs is called edema. It is caused by extra fluid collecting in the tissues. Because of gravity, extra fluid in the body settles to the lowest part. That is why the legs and feet are most affected. You have swelling in a single leg.

Some of the causes for swelling in only one leg include:

  • Infection in the foot or leg

  • Muscle strain or tear in the affected leg

  • Blockage of the leg's lymphatic system

  • A Baker's cyst (located behind the knee)

  • Long-term problem with a vein not working well (venous insufficiency)

  • Swollen, twisted vein in the leg (varicose veins)

  • Insect bite or sting on the foot or leg

  • Injury or recent surgery on the foot or leg

  • Blood clot in a deep vein of the leg (deep vein thrombosis or DVT)

  • Inflammation of the joints of the lower leg

Medical treatment will depend on what is causing your swelling.

Home care

Follow these guidelines when caring for yourself at home:

  • Don’t wear tight clothing.

  • Keep your legs up while lying or sitting.

  • Take any medicines as directed.

  • If infection, injury, or recent surgery is the cause of your swelling, stay off your legs as much as possible until your symptoms get better.

  • If you have venous insufficiency or varicose veins, don’t sit or stand in one place for long periods of time. Take breaks and walk around every few hours. Talk with your healthcare provider about wearing support stockings to help reduce swelling during the day.

  • Wear compression stockings with your provider's approval

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider as advised.

Call 911

Call 911 if any of these occur:

  • Shortness of breath or trouble breathing

  • Chest pain

  • Coughing up blood

  • Fainting or loss of consciousness 

When to seek medical advice

Call your healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:

  • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness of the leg, ankle, or foot

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38ºC) or higher, or as directed by your provider

  • Weakness or dizziness

  • Shaking chills

  • Drenching sweats

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