Swollen Ankles

Swollen ankles can also be termed as edema. Edema is a condition that is visible on any body part although it mostly occurs in the lower body parts. People whose diet consists of foods with high carbohydrates and salt are at high risk of getting edema. Pills used for birth control, laxatives, diuretics and pills for hormone replacement among many other drugs cause edema.

Having swollen ankles could be a sign of different conditions. This condition is most common among the elderly although people of all ages are at risk of getting swollen ankles. Symptoms accompanying swollen ankles may include heart palpitations, puffy eyes, headaches, high blood pressure, swollen wrists, weight gain and others.

Causes of Swollen Ankles

1. Ankle Injure

  • Condition Description. If you have had an ankle injury, chances are you have experienced some swollen ankles. This is common in sprained ankles, which happen when you miss a step and your feet ligaments, which hold your ankle in-place, over-stretch.
  • Treatment. To reduce the swelling, you should avoid walking using the injured leg. Wrap the ankle using compression bandage, place ice packs on the ankle and elevate the leg when sitting. If the pain and swelling persists seek medical attention.

2. Lymphedema

  • Condition Description. This is swelling occurring on one leg or arm. Although in most cases, just an arm or leg swells, it can at times affect all legs or arms. It occurs when the lymphatic system is blocked preventing the flow of lymphatic fluid which plays a vital role in your circulatory and immune system.
  • Treatment. Although it does not have a permanent cure, you can reduce swelling by performing some light exercises, wrapping the swollen arm or leg using bandages, have a manual lymph drainage massage and wear compression garments. Radiation therapy is also used to remove lymph nodes in cancer patients.

3. Venous Insufficiency

  • Condition Description. This is a condition whereby your veins are unable to send blood back and forth i.e. from the heart to the legs and vice-versa. This normally happens when you have missing or damaged varicose veins valves. The veins get filled with blood especially when standing.
  • Treatment. To manage venous, you should avoid sitting or standing for long. Reduce swelling by using compression stockings and care for any infections or open sores. Stripping of the varicose veins (surgery) is also a possibility, but that will depend on what the doctor says.

4. Infection

  • Condition Description. Though not common in ankle swelling, infections can also cause swelling of the ankles. It can happen either at the ankle joint tissues or at the septic joint. People with nerve problems such as diabetic neuropathy have greater risks for foot infections. If you have diabetes, watch out for any sores of blisters.
  • When to See a Doctor. To treat swelling of the ankles caused by infections, you can use medications prescribed by your doctor. There are rare cases where surgery may be necessary.

5. Pregnancy Complications

  • Condition Description. Even though having swollen ankles during pregnancy is a normal occurrence more so if the expectant woman has been walking or standing too much, it could also be a sign of pregnancy related complications. If you have had sudden swelling on the feet, it could mean you have a serious condition known as preeclampsia.
  • When to See a Doctor. If the sudden swelling comes with abdominal pain, infrequent urination, vomiting, nausea, vision changes or headaches, then it is time you saw a doctor.

6. Liver, Heart or Kidney Disease

  • Condition Description. There are times when swollen ankles could be an indication of presence of a kidney, heart or liver disease. It could even be as a result of retaining water and salt caused by failure of the right-side of the heart. Likewise, when the kidneys are not functioning as they should, fluid may build up causing swelling of your ankles.
  • When to See a Doctor. If the ankle swelling comes with appetite loss, fatigue, short breath, chest tightness & pain, pressure and weight gain it is best you seek immediate medical attention.

7. Blood Clot

  • Condition Description. Blood clots are known to occur in different circumstances. They occur to stop blood from oozing after a cut/bruise. However, there are times when its occurrence is harmful to your health, and swollen ankles could be a sign that there is blood clotting in your ankles. Blood clots can be superficial and deep, which can be life threatening.
  • When to See a Doctor. Seek medical attention of you are experiencing squeezing, pressure or fullness at the chest, arm, shoulder or jaw pain, sudden numbness/weakness on the legs or face, sudden difficulty in understanding speech or speaking and blurred vision. If you also have redness, pain, numbness or swelling in your legs, intense throbbing or burning sensation and chronic dizziness or headache you should seek medical attention.

8. Medication Side Effects

There are medications that have a blood clot as a side effect. It is, therefore, important that you consult your doctor before taking any OTC medication. These include:

  • Hormones such as testosterone and estrogen, which can be found in hormone replacement therapy and oral contraceptives.
  • Calcium channel blockers, which includes nifedipine, amlodipine (Norvasc), diltiazem, felodipine, and verapamil.
  • Steroids, including anabolic steroids and androgenic and corticosteroids such as prednisone
  • Antidepressants such as monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitors.
  • Diabetes medications.
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)

9. Other Causes

  • Gout. This is a common occurrence. Gout causes crystals of uric acid to accumulate in your ankle when there is increased uric acid production. Excess crystals of the uric acid cause joint swelling and inflammation.
  • Arthritis. Although not a common cause for ankle swelling, arthritis can also cause it. Ankle joint arthritis is common in people who have had a previous joint injury. Examples include people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis and athletes.


It is important that you check your symptoms carefully for further diagnosis or treatment. It is also very important that you seek medical advice because all the above mentioned causes may not be comprehensive. A qualified doctor has enough knowledge and experience to highlight the underlying cause thus provide effective treatment.

Natural Remedies for Swollen Ankles

  • Use Vinegar. First, prepare equal amounts of warm water and vinegar. Soak a towel into the mixture and wrap it around your ankle. Leave it for five minutes. Then mix equal parts of vinegar & cold water, and follow the previous procedure. Repeat this entire session three times.
  • Apply Cucumber. Apply cucumber slices to the swollen ankle and cover with a bandage. Put a slice of cucumber on your ankle and cover it with a cotton cloth. Cucumber will speed recovery by absorbing the fluid.
  • Try Lecithin Seeds. Try lecithin seeds more so if you are pregnant to reduce swelling. Take 3 to 4 tablespoon of lecithin seeds daily for 2-3 month. Its magical effect will show within 2-3 months.
  • Reduce Salt Intake. Reduce salt intake as it promotes inflammation levels and peripheral edema. These include salty foods, processed or pickled salty foods and salt substitutes. You should also buy foods with low level of saturated fat and sodium.
  • Increase Potassium Intake. Increase potassium intake can also lessen ankle swelling. Some of the foods high in potassium are apricots, broccoli, bananas, cantaloupe, dates, carrots, oranges, mushrooms, parsnip, prunes, potatoes, raisins, spinach, watermelon, sweet potatoes, winter squash, lentils, almonds, dry beans, peas, peanuts, milk and yogurt.
  • Eat Anti-inflammation Foods. Eat anti-inflammatory foods like fish for increased Omega-3 fatty acids. The greatest sources of Omega-3 fatty acids are salmon, mackerel, albacore tuna, sturgeon, bluefish and trout.
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