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Causes of Swollen Foot & Ankle Swelling


Swollen ankles and swollen feet are common and usually not cause concern, especially in the event that you have been standing or walking a lot.

But toes and ankles that stay swollen or are accompanied by additional symptoms could signal a serious health problem.

We look at several possible causes of foot and ankle swelling and provides advice on when to call the health care provider.

Pregnancy complications.

Sudden or excessive swelling, however, may be an indication of preeclampsia, a serious condition in which elevated blood pressure and protein in the urine develop following the 20th week of pregnancy.

Should you experience acute swelling or swelling caused by other symptoms like abdominal pain, nausea, rare urination, nausea, and vomiting, or vision changes, call your physician immediately.

Learn more about managing a high-risk pregnancy.

Foot or ankle injury.

An injury to the ankle or foot can lead to Swollen ankles and swollen feet.

The most typical is a sprained ankle, which occurs when an accident or misstep results in the ligaments that hold the ankle set to be stretched beyond their normal range.

To decrease the swelling by a foot or ankle injury, rest to avoid walking around the injured foot or ankle, use ice packs, wrap the ankle or foot with a compression bandage, and elevate the foot on a pillow or stool.

If Swollen ankles and swollen feet swelling are severe or do not improve with home treatment, see your physician. Learn more about how to treat a sprained ankle.


This is a selection of lymphatic fluid from the cells that can develop because of the absence of or problems with the lymph vessels or after the removal of lymph nodes.

Lymph is a protein-rich fluid that normally travels along with an extensive system of vessels and capillaries.

It’s filtered through the lymph nodes, which trap and destroy unwanted substances, such as bacteria.

When there’s an issue with the vessels or lymph nodes, but the fluid’s movement can be blocked.

Untreated, lymph buildup may impair wound healing and result in infection and deformity.

Lymphedema is common following radiation treatment or removal of these lymph nodes in patients with cancer.

If you’ve undergone cancer therapy and experience swelling, then see your health care provider right away. See a picture of what lymphedema resembles.

Venous insufficiency.

Swelling of the ankles and feet is often an early symptom of venous insufficiency, a condition in which blood inadequately moves upward the veins in the legs and feet up to the heart.

Ordinarily, the veins keep blood flowing upward with one-way valves.

When these valves become damaged or weakened, the blood leaks back down the vessels, and fluid is retained in the delicate tissues of the lower legs, particularly the ankles and feet.

Chronic venous insufficiency may result in skin changes, skin disorders, and disease. Should you experience signs of venous insufficiency you need to see your doctor.


Swelling in the feet and ankles can be a sign of disease. People with diabetic neuropathy or other neurological problems of their feet are at greater risk for foot ailments.

If you have diabetes, it’s important to inspect your feet every day for sores and blisters, because nerve damage can blunt the pain sensation and foot problems can advance quickly.

If you notice a swollen foot or blister that is apparently infected, contact your physician straight away.

Blood clots.

That form in the veins of the legs may stop the return flow of blood in the legs back up into the center and cause swelling in the ankles and feet.

Blood clots may be either superficial (occurring in the veins just under the skin), or deep (a condition known as deep vein thrombosis).

Deep clots can block at least one of the major veins of their legs. These blood clots may be life-threatening if they break loose and go to the heart and lungs.

If you have swelling in one leg, along with pain, low-grade fever, and a change in color of the affected leg, call your doctor immediately.

Treatment with blood thinners may be necessary. Find out more about deep vein thrombosis (DVT).

Heart, liver, or kidney disorder.

Sometimes swelling can signal a problem such as liver, heart, or kidney disease. Ankles that swell in the day could be an indication of retaining water and salt due to right-sided heart collapse.

Kidney disease can also result in foot and ankle swelling. When kidneys aren’t functioning properly, fluid can build up in the body.

Liver disease may affect the liver’s production of a protein known as albumin, which keeps blood from leaking out of the blood vessels into the surrounding cells.

Inadequate albumin production may result in fluid leakage. Gravity causes fluid to accumulate more in the feet and ankles, but fluid can also accumulate in the gut and chest.

If your swelling is accompanied by other symptoms, including fatigue, loss of appetite, and weight gain, visit your doctor straight away.

If you feel short of breath or have chest discomfort, pressure, or tightness, call 911.

Medication side effects.

Many medications may cause swelling in the feet and ankles as a possible side effect. They include:

  • Hormones such as estrogen (found in oral contraceptives and hormone replacement therapy) and testosterone
  • Steroids, such as androgenic and anabolic steroids and corticosteroids like prednisone
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs)
  • Diabetes drugs.
  • Antidepressants including tricyclics, such as nortriptyline (Pamelor, Aventyl), desipramine (Norpramin), and amitriptyline (Elavil, Endep, Vanatrip); and monoamine oxidase (MAO)
  • Calcium channel blockers, a type of blood pressure medication, which includes nifedipine (Adalat, Afeditab, Nifediac, Nifedical, Procardia), amlodipine (Norvasc), and verapamil (Calan, Covera-HS)

Should you suspect swelling could be related to a medication you are taking, talk to your physician.

Even though the benefits of the medication could be well worth enduring some swelling, more severe swelling could help it become necessary to modify the medicine or its dose.

Ask your friends and loved ones for support.

If you’re feeling anxious or depressed, consider joining a support group or seeking counseling. Believe in your ability to take control of the pain…

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