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Prairie Path Foot & Ankle Clinic

Why is my one foot/one ankle/one leg swollen?

Swelling in legs and feet can say a lot about your overall health - not just the health of feet and legs!  There are several different reasons for swelling in legs and feet and sometimes this swelling affects one leg while other times it affects both.  Are your legs swollen?  Your feet?  Your toes?  Is it more noticeable at any one time of day?

Swelling in one foot or leg only...

When swelling is happening in only one leg, the following are possible reasons for this:

1. Injury: A leg/foot/toe is often swollen if an injury has occured.  This can be due to sprains, strains, fractures or tendon tears or ruptures.  A lot of times, if an injury is the cause of swelling, this is something you would know about and remember an incident.  However, in some cases (especially in individuals with neuropathy or numbness in feet/legs) an injury may have occured which didn't seem like much of a big deal at the time - yet some damage to bone or ligaments may have occured.  It is important to treat injuries quickly, or the recovery time can be much longer.

2. Arthritic Process: There are a variety of types of arthritis and some are more widespread than others.  Gout is an arthritic process related to an excessive amount of uric acid building up in the body. This uric acid then can settle into joints and cause not only swelling, but often a GREAT deal of pain and redness.  Osteoarthritis (the wear and tear type) can cause swelling of joints with increased activity.  Rheumatoid and psoriatic arthritis are the result of autoimmune disease which causes inflammation (swelling) of joints as well.  With these types of arthritis, again, pain is usually present with swelling.

3. Infection: Infections can develop following a break in the skin that allows the natural bacteria of the skin to sneak under the surface.  However, not all infections require a break in the skin.  Swelling from infections is related to the inflammatory process that your body undergoes in efforts to fight off the infection. Redness, pain and sometimes drainage through an open lesion are other signs of infection.

4. Baker's Cyst: A Baker's cyst is a fluid-filled cyst that occurs behind the knee.  This usually develops due to injury or arthritis within the knee joint. 

5. DVT:  DVT stands for deep vein thrombosis.  When we break this word down, it means that there is a collection of blood (a clot) within a vein deep in the calf of the leg.  DVT's are very dangerous and if left untreated, can cause migration of the clot to the lungs and even be deadly.  A DVT is often accompanied with a feeling of a charlie horse in the calf as well as warmth of the leg as compared to the other side. 

As you can see, the causes of swelling that is only present in one appendage can be due to a vast variety of causes.  Treatments for these causes is very different from one to the next.  If you have swelling in one leg, one foot, even one toe - especially if it is painful, consider seeing your doctor to seek treatment before the problem gets worse!