Many different conditions can cause swollen ankles or swollen feet.
Sometimes it’s simply a result of standing or walking too much. But it could also be a sign of a more serious medical condition.
If your feet or ankles stay swollen for an extended period, if they are preventing you from doing ordinary activities, or if other symptoms accompany the swelling, it’s important to see your doctor.
Potential causes for foot or ankle swelling include:
An injury to the foot or ankle can cause swelling. The most common type of injury is a sprained ankle—when the ligaments that support the ankle are stretched or torn.
In the case of an injury, swelling generally goes away within a few days and can be treated with ice, elevation, and over-the-counter pain relievers.
During pregnancy, it’s common for your feet and ankles to swell. This is likely related to the extra weight and fluid retention that can occur during pregnancy.
In most cases, pregnant women don’t need to worry about swollen ankles and feet. However, suppose the swelling is sudden, severe, or accompanied by other symptoms like headache, nausea, abdominal pain, or vision changes. In that case, it could be a sign of preeclampsia—see your doctor immediately if this is the case.
Heart or Blood Issues
Some forms of heart failure can lead to the retention of salt and water, which can cause swelling in the feet and ankles.
Swelling can also result from a blood clot in the veins of the leg, which blocks blood flow and causes the area to swell.
It can also be a sign of venous insufficiency, which occurs when the valves in the veins that normally help blood flow back to the heart are damaged or not working properly.
Kidney or Liver Disease
Usually, the kidneys remove extra fluid from the body by filtering it out and passing it through the urine. If the kidneys are not functioning correctly, this excess fluid can build up and cause swelling throughout the body.
The liver is responsible for, among many other functions, producing albumin proteins that help keep the fluid in the blood from leaking out into tissues. When the liver is not working properly, decreased albumin production may lead to fluid leakage and swelling.
Sometimes swelling is a side effect of certain medications, such as:
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- Blood pressure medication
- Some diabetes medications
- Hormone therapy
If you’ve been prescribed a medication that is causing side effects, tell your doctor before stopping the medication. They may be able to modify your dosage or prescribe an alternative treatment.
Other Possible Causes
There are many other potential causes of swollen ankles and feet, including:
- Insect bites or stings
- Reactivity to cold or heat
Your doctor will look at your symptoms and medical history, and, if necessary, they may also order blood tests or imaging studies. Treatment for swollen ankles and feet will depend on the underlying cause.