Fluid Buildup in the Calf

Swelling is part of your body's natural response to inflammation from a traumatic injury, or it can signal that your body is having difficulty circulating fluids. Swelling that's concentrated in your calf or calves can simply result from standing in place for too long, or it can signal a more serious condition, such as a blood clot in your leg. Always seek emergency medical treatment if fluid starts to build in your leg and you have no explanation for why your calf became swollen.

A swollen calf can affect blood flow to your leg.
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Less Traumatic Causes

Some causes of fluid buildup in your calf do not signal a medical emergency. This is true when you experience the fluid buildup after you have been on your feet or sitting for some time. The condition develops because gravity attracts fluid in your legs, pulling it away from other areas of your body and toward your calf. If you are overweight, you are more likely to experience this type of swelling because your body may have difficulty circulating blood and other fluids. Also, if you have experienced an injury, such as a blow to the leg or bruising, your body's inflammatory response may cause you to experience swelling in your calf. If your swelling does not improve with a change of positioning or with time, this could signal a more significant injury.

Peripheral Edema

Peripheral edema is a medical condition that occurs when the portions of your body responsible for fluid filtration are not filtering effectively. These areas include your kidneys, circulatory system or lymphatic system. The result can be swelling in your calf or legs that can indicate medical conditions such as kidney failure, a blockage of your lymphatic system or swelling around the heart. While these are not necessarily emergency conditions, they do indicate the need for further examination.


Taking certain medications can contribute to fluid buildup in your calves. Medications such as antidepressants, blood pressure pills, estrogen hormones and steroids are all associated with causing swelling in your body, including your legs. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist to determine if medications you are taking could potentially contribute to leg swelling. You can take some preventive measures to keep this from occurring, such as a low-sodium diet, elevating your legs when sitting or lying down or wearing support circulation stockings, according to MedlinePlus.


Some accompanying symptoms to your fluid buildup can indicate the need for emergency medical attention. If you have leg swelling accompanied with breathing difficulties, fainting, confusion and chest pain, this could indicate you are experiencing a blood clot in your leg. Because the clot can break off and cause a deadly pulmonary embolism, it's important to seek medical attention immediately.

Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
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