Leg Swelling From Knee Down: Causes, Symptoms, & Treatment Options

Explore the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for leg swelling from the knee down in this informative article. Gain valuable insights into managing and finding relief from this condition.

Key takeaways

  • Various factors, including lifestyle habits and medical conditions, may cause leg swelling below the knee.
  • Chronic venous insufficiency and pulmonary embolism are potential medical causes of leg swelling.
  • Seeking timely medical advice for persistent or worsening swelling can help prevent complications.
  • Leg swelling can be effectively managed with a proper diagnosis or even fully resolved.

Swelling below the knee is a fairly common occurrence influenced by various factors such as lifestyle habits or medical conditions. Recognizing potential causes and symptoms may facilitate proper management and even prevention of this discomfort caused by leg swelling.

What is leg swelling?

Leg swelling, also known as edema, is the accumulation of fluid buildup in the legs and increased pressure on your blood vessels. Paying attention to your body's signals and adjusting to your daily routine may alleviate the swelling in some cases.

Remember to speak with a healthcare professional before implementing significant changes to your daily routine, especially if your leg swelling persists or worsens over time.

Causes of leg swelling below the knee

Leg swelling below the knee can be attributed to various factors, including potential diseases, skin infections, and prolonged standing or sitting. Let's delve into each of these causes in detail.

Potential diseases

Illustration of a leg that has chronic venous insufficiency

Various diseases may cause leg swelling below the knee.

  • Arthritis: Certain types of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis, can cause inflammation and fluid retention in the joints, leading to leg swelling.
  • Kidney disease or kidney failure: Impaired kidney function can result in the accumulation of excess fluid in the body, leading to leg swelling.
  • Deep vein thrombosis (DVT): This condition occurs when a blood clot forms in one of the deep veins, usually in the leg, causing swelling, pain, and potential complications.
  • Venous insufficiency: Venous insufficiency is another common cause of leg swelling. This occurs when your leg veins have difficulty returning blood to your heart, causing blood to pool in the legs and leading to swelling.
  • Varicose veins: Enlarged and twisted veins can impede proper blood flow, causing fluid retention and leg swelling.
  • Heart failure and liver disease: These conditions can also cause swelling in the legs due to their impact on the body's fluid balance.

Skin infections

Skin infections, often bacterial, may result in cellulitis, a condition characterized by redness, swelling, and skin tenderness. Cellulitis, frequently commencing in the lower legs, may spread rapidly if not managed promptly. Swift medical attention is imperative if a skin infection is suspected to cause your leg swelling.

Prolonged standing or sitting

A female teacher who prolonged standing while teaching

Remaining in a standing or sitting position for extended periods can impede blood circulation and contribute to leg swelling. Gravity plays a role in fluid accumulation, especially when the legs are in a dependent position for prolonged periods.


Certain medications, such as calcium channel blockers and corticosteroids, can cause leg swelling as a side effect. These medications may interfere with fluid balance and circulation in the body.

Understanding these potential causes and seeking immediate medical help is crucial for controlling and preventing further leg swelling from the knee down.

Common symptoms of swollen legs

A woman who feels pain in her legs

If you're noticing swelling in your leg below your knee, you should be vigilant about other symptoms that may come with it. These might include:

  • Pain
  • Tenderness when touched
  • A warm or burning sensation
  • Redness, a sign of inflammation
  • Skin change or discoloration
  • Dry skin

These symptoms often stem from fluid accumulation in your legs, resulting in discomfort or pain. Additional insights can be found in the "When body parts swell" article by the National Institute of Health.

It's paramount to monitor these symptoms consistently and seek professional medical advice if you're worried about your leg swelling or observe any significant changes in your symptoms. This will aid in identifying the reason behind the swelling and getting the proper treatment to reduce discomfort. - Dr. Samir Damani (iThriveVeins San Diego)

Risk factors of leg swelling below the knee

A pregnant woman is looking at her legs which are swollen

Several risk factors are associated with swelling from the knee down, often referred to as peripheral edema. These risk factors increase the likelihood of developing this condition. Understanding these risk factors is crucial for prevention and early detection.

  • Age: As you age, your risk of having lymphoedema and limb swelling can increase due to a gradual decline in lymphatic system function, resulting in fluid accumulation.
  • Obesity: Excess body weight increases pressure on veins and the lymphatic system, leading to leg swelling. A healthy weight can help mitigate this risk.
  • Pregnancy: Expectant mothers often experience temporary leg swelling due to hormonal changes, increased blood volume, and pressure from an expanding uterus on the inferior vena cava.
  • Diabetes: High blood sugar levels in diabetics can damage veins and nerves, impair circulation, and hinder fluid return from the legs to the heart. Appropriate diabetes management can help avert such issues.

Complications that may arise related to leg swelling below the knee

Recognizing potential complications of leg swelling below the knee is crucial, including edema and lymphedema.

  • Edema is characterized by an accumulation of excess fluid in the tissues of your body, leading to pain and swelling in the affected area.
  • Lymphedema, conversely, is related to your lymphatic system's inability to drain lymph fluid correctly. This complication causes the fluid to build up in your tissues, resulting in discomfort and an increased risk of infection.

Recognizing additional symptoms and complications

Occasionally, leg swelling may be accompanied by fever, signaling an underlying infection or inflammatory response to injury. If you notice swelling accompanied by a fever, it is essential to seek medical attention promptly. Ignoring such symptoms may lead to more severe complications, such as sepsis, cellulitis, or deep vein thrombosis (DVT).

DVT is a potentially life-threatening condition where a blood clot forms in a deep vein, often in the leg.

Diagnosis and tests

A vein specialist who is performing a leg ultrasound procedure on his patient's leg

Based on your symptoms and probable etiology of leg edema, your doctor may recommend specific diagnostic tests to help confirm or rule out systemic causes related to cardiopulmonary function or other illnesses.

For instance, a blood test may be required to check for infection or inflammation that could indicate rheumatoid arthritis. In some cases, imaging studies such as X-rays, venous ultrasound, or MRI can be helpful to assess the condition of your joints and soft tissues.

By accurately diagnosing the issue, they can devise an appropriate treatment plan to address your needs and improve your quality of life.

Understanding leg swelling treatment

Treating leg swelling from the knee down involves several methods, and the most effective one relies on the root cause of the problem.

Use of compression stockings

Compression stockings are commonly used to manage this condition. Applying consistent and gentle pressure on your legs, aids in enhancing blood flow and reducing the build-up of fluid. To gain the full benefits of compression stockings, it is important to:

  • Wear them consistently.
  • Ensure they fit correctly.

Massage therapy

A leg getting massage therapy

Massage stimulates the lymphatic system, increasing circulation and aiding in the reduction of fluid retention. The additional benefits include:

  • Relaxing the muscles.
  • Relieving associated pain.

Anti-inflammatory drugs

If you're dealing with inflammation and pain, anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen or aspirin, may prove beneficial. However,

It is crucial to consult your doctor before starting these medications due to their potential side effects and varying suitability for different individuals.

Antibiotics for infections

If your leg swelling is a result of an infection, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics. For an efficient fight against the underlying infection, you must:

  • Follow the prescribed dosage.
  • Complete the entire course of medication.

Treatment for swelling legs due to chronic venous insufficiency

A leg swelling from the knee down accompanied by CVI undergoing medical treatment procedures

Treating chronic venous insufficiency (CVI) can play a significant role in managing and reducing leg swelling from the knee down. Conventionally, it involves correction of the impaired blood flow in your legs, which directly contributes to swelling. Through appropriate medical procedures and lifestyle modifications, CVI treatment can significantly alleviate your symptoms, thus improving the overall quality of your life.

When should you be concerned about leg swelling?

While mild swelling is often harmless and can be managed with self-care measures, there are certain situations where you should seek medical attention. Consult a healthcare professional if you experience severe leg pain, sudden swelling, or if the swelling persists for an extended period. These signs may indicate a more serious underlying condition.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are there home remedies for reducing leg swelling?

Various home remedies may help alleviate leg swelling, including elevation, ice application, and over-the-counter pain relief. Gentle massage and stretching exercises can improve circulation while staying hydrated and reducing salt intake can help prevent fluid retention. However, you'll need to consult your healthcare provider for a proper diagnosis and guidance on appropriate treatment options.

How to prevent leg swelling while sitting at the desk?

To prevent leg swelling while sitting at a desk, take regular breaks to stand and stretch, elevate your legs when possible, and avoid crossing your legs for long periods.

How can fluid retention in the legs be alleviated?

To alleviate fluid retention in the legs, try elevating your legs above heart level when resting, wearing compression stockings, and reducing your salt intake. Regular exercise and maintaining a healthy weight can also help prevent fluid retention. Speak with your healthcare provider for specific advice based on your situation.

The bottom line

Leg swelling from the knee down is a cause for concern and requires immediate medical attention due to potential underlying health issues. Early diagnosis is crucial, especially for conditions such as Deep Vein Thrombosis and chronic venous insufficiency that can lead to swollen legs.

Various treatment strategies are available, including compression stockings, massage therapies, lifestyle modifications, and prescribed medications. However, the effectiveness of treatment depends on the underlying cause. It is essential to consult with your healthcare provider to maintain good leg health, which contributes significantly to overall well-being.



Medical News Today. (2023). Swelling in rheumatoid arthritis and where it occurs

National Institute on Aging. (2022). Osteoarthritis

National Library of Medicine (2003). Calcium Channel Blocker‐Related Peripheral Edema: Can It Be Resolved?

National Library of Medicine. (2023). Corticosteroid Adverse Effects

Mayo Clinic (2022).Leg Swelling

National Institute of Health (2022). When Body Parts Swell

Vascular Society. Lymphedema and Limb Swelling

PubMed Central. (2019). Fever and Leg Pain: Consider ALL the Diagnoses

National Library of Medicine (2023). Deep Vein Thrombosis

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