Know the basics

What is swollen feet or ankle?

Swollen feet or ankle is also known as peripheral edema, which refers to an accumulation of fluid in these parts of the body. The buildup of fluid usually isn’t painful, unless it’s due to injury.

How common is swollen feet or ankle?

Swollen feet or ankle is extremely common. It can affect patients at any age. It can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Know the symptoms

What are the symptoms of swollen feet or ankle?

The common symptoms of swollen feet or ankle are:

  • You have heart or kidney disease and are experiencing swelling.
  • You have liver disease and are experiencing swelling in your legs.
  • The swollen areas are red and feel warm to the touch.
  • Your body temperature is higher than normal.
  • You are pregnant and are experiencing sudden or severe swelling.
  • You have tried home remedies, but they haven’t been successful.
  • Your swelling is getting worse.

In some cases, your symptoms may worsen such as:

  • Pain, pressure, or tightness in the chest area;
  • Dizziness;
  • Confusion;
  • Feeling lightheaded or faint;
  • Trouble breathing or shortness of breath;

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

While swelling in the lower extremities do not cause for concern, it can sometimes be a sign of something more serious.

You should go to the hospital immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms above.

Know the causes

What causes swollen feet or ankle?

There are many potential causes of foot, leg, and ankle swelling. In most cases, swelling occurs as a result of certain lifestyle factors, such as:

  • Being overweight can decrease blood circulation, causing fluid to build up in the feet, legs, and ankles.
  • Standing or sitting for long periods make they could not pump body fluids back up toward the heart because at that time the muscles are inactive.

Foot, leg, and ankle swelling can also occur while taking particular medications, such as:

  • Steroids;
  • Estrogen or testosterone;
  • Some antidepressants, including tricyclics and MAO inhibitors;
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, including ibuprofen and aspirin.

Furthermore, these types of medications can reduce blood circulation by increasing the thickness of the blood, causing swelling in the legs. Make sure to talk to your doctor if you suspect that your medication is causing swelling in your lower extremities. Don’t stop taking your medication until you speak with your doctor.

Other possible causes for foot, leg, and ankle swelling include:

  • Natural hormonal changes such as fluctuating levels of estrogen and progesterone can cause reduced circulation in the legs, resulting in swelling. These changes in hormone levels may occur during pregnancy and a woman’s menstrual cycle.
  • Blood clot in the leg is a clump of blood that’s in a solid state. When a blood clot forms in a vein of the leg, it can impair blood flow, leading to swelling and discomfort.
  • Injury or infection affecting the foot, leg, or ankle results in increased blood flow to the area. This presents as swelling.
  • Venous insufficiency occurs when the veins are unable to pump blood adequately, causing blood to pool in the legs.
  • Pericarditis is a long-term inflammation of the pericardium, which is the sac-like membrane around the heart. The condition causes breathing difficulties and severe, chronic swelling in the legs and ankles.
  • Lymphedema, known as lymphatic obstruction, lymphedema, causes blockages in the lymphatic system. This system is made up of lymph nodes and blood vessels that help carry fluid throughout the body. A blockage in the lymphatic system causes tissues to become swollen with fluid, resulting in swelling in the arms and legs.
  • Preeclampsia causes high blood pressure during pregnancy. The increase in blood pressure can result in poor circulation and swell in the face, hands, and legs.
  • Cirrhosis refers to severe scarring of the liver, which is often caused by alcohol abuse or infection (hepatitis B or C). The condition can cause high blood pressure and poor circulation in the feet, legs, and ankles.

Know the risk factors

What increases my risk for swollen feet or ankle?

There are many risk factors for swollen feet or ankle, such as:

  • Age;
  • Being overweight;
  • Health condition such as pregnancy, cirrhosis, lymphedema, pericarditis, preeclampsia, etc.

Understand the diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is swollen feet or ankle diagnosed?

During your appointment, your doctor will perform a physical examination and ask you about your symptoms.

To help diagnose the cause of the swelling, he or she may order one or more of the following tests:

  • Blood tests;
  • X-rays;
  • Ultrasound;
  • Electrocardiogram.

How is swollen feet or ankle treated?

If your swelling is related to a lifestyle habit or a minor injury, your doctor will likely recommend home treatments. If your swelling is the result of an underlying health condition, your doctor will first attempt to treat that specific condition. Swelling may be reduced with prescription medications, such as diuretics. However, these medicines can cause side effects, and are usually used only if home remedies aren’t working.

Lifestyle changes & Home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage swollen feet or ankle?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with swollen feet or ankle:

  • Elevate your legs whenever you’re lying down. The legs should be raised so they’re above your heart. You may want to place a pillow under your legs to make it more comfortable.
  • Stay active and focus on stretching and moving the legs.
  • Reduce your salt intake, which can decrease the amount of fluid that may build up in your legs.
  • Avoid wearing garters and other types of restrictive clothing around your thighs.
  • Maintain a healthy body weight.
  • Wear support stockings or compression socks.
  • Stand up or move around at least once every hour, especially if you’re sitting or standing still for long periods of time.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


Review Date: January 4, 2017 | Last Modified: January 4, 2017

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