Common Causes of Leg, Ankle, and Foot Swelling and Pain

Legs, ankles, and feet of a barefoot person wearing black pants and sitting on a stoolWe often hear from patients experiencing pain and swelling in their lower extremities. Below, we review some common causes of leg, ankle, and foot swelling and pain and offer advice about when to seek medical care.


Bruises, fractures, sprains, and strains can all result in pain and swelling. If you experience an injury after an accident or strenuous activity, this is likely the cause.

Bruises and mild sprains and strains typically heal on their own with rest and time. Sometimes over-the-counter pain remedies are needed to help with discomfort. However, if the pain increases over time or you can’t bear weight on the injured side, you should seek urgent medical care.


As we’ve explained in previous blogs, leg movement that contracts your calf muscles is required to help circulate your blood. Extended periods of inactivity can cause blood to pool in your legs, ankles, and feet, resulting in pain and swelling.

Physical activity, even simple leg movements, can help with circulation. You can also try elevating your legs. If the problem persists, schedule an appointment with a vein specialist who can determine if you have venous insufficiency or another vein issue.

Venous Insufficiency

With this condition, the valves inside your veins aren’t functioning properly, which allows the blood to back up and pool in the lower veins. Pain, swelling, and a feeling of heaviness are often the first symptoms.

Untreated venous insufficiency can lead to varicose veins, venous stasis, venous ulcers, and other serious consequences. This is why seeing a vein specialist for an evaluation and treatment is essential.

Blood Clots

The sudden onset of significant pain and swelling, particularly if affects only one leg, may indicate a blood clot or deep vein thrombosis (DVT), which can be deadly and requires immediate medical care. Several factors can put you at high risk for blood clots which can happen to anyone at any age.

Seek urgent medical care if you experience severe, sudden leg pain, swelling and fever, redness, warmth, itching, and burning around the site of the pain.


The lymphatic system is responsible for carrying clear lymph fluid throughout your body. Lymphedema is a condition where this fluid doesn’t drain properly and builds up in the fatty tissue under the skin, which causes swelling and discomfort. This condition typically occurs if you have lymph nodes removed or exposed to radiation, such as with cancer treatment or following surgery or trauma. However, it can occur without a known cause.

Lymphedema often starts gradually and increases in severity over time, so if you have symptoms, see a doctor, as treatment is necessary to stop the progression.

Expert Evaluation and Treatment

Pain and swelling in your legs, ankles, or feet can result from several causes, but we can help you narrow down the problem. If you routinely experience these symptoms or others, such as cramping, spider, or varicose veins, give us a call to schedule an evaluation. Healthier legs will lead to a healthier you!