Causes of Swelling in Legs, Hands & Feet

Tissues in the body may trap excessive fluid and cause swelling, which is referred to as edema. Individuals commonly notice this swelling in the hands, feet, ankles and legs, according to Small amounts of swelling are normal and usually resolve spontaneously. A variety of medical conditions may cause edema; identifying and treating the underlying condition is essential to controlling it.

A swollen ankle and foot. Credit: Du?an Kosti?/iStock/Getty Images


Lupus is an autoimmune condition that causes chronic inflammatory response in areas of the body. Common symptoms of lupus include fatigue, swollen joints, a butterfly-shaped rash on the face and edema in the hands, legs and feet, according to the Lupus Foundation of America website.

Pregnancy and Hormones

Pregnant women, women experiencing premenstrual symptoms and women taking supplemental estrogen may experience swelling in the hands, feet and legs. Eating salty foods, as well as remaining in one position for long periods of time, may increase the swelling.


Certain medications may cause swelling in the extremities as a side effect of the drug. Calcium channel blockers used to treat conditions, such as high blood pressure and migraines, may cause edema because the medication works to block calcium from entering cells in the blood vessels and in the heart. This blockage of calcium causes the blood vessels to relax and dilate. The dilated blood vessels allow excessive fluid to pool in the extremities. Additional medications that may cause swelling include medications used to treat high blood pressure, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and thiazolidinediones, which treats diabetes, according to

Kidney and Liver Failure

Functions of the kidneys and liver include removing waste products from the body. If these organs do not function correctly because of damage, the body may retain excessive amounts of fluid, increasing the risk of developing edema in the hands, legs and feet.


An injury, such as a sprain to the knee, ankle or wrist or a broken bone in the hand, foot or leg, may cause swelling to occur in the area. First aid treatments, such as ice, may help reduce the swelling.

Deep Vein Thrombosis

A deep vein thrombosis is a blood clot in one of the deep veins in the body. They most often occur in the legs, but may also occur in the arms. Symptoms of a deep vein thrombosis include pain in the affected extremity and swelling in the area.

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