Common causes of swollen ankle

8th June 2018 by Daryll Baker0

Swelling of the ankles, feet and legs is caused by an accumulation of fluid. Known medically as peripheral edema, swollen ankle is a common condition, which can affect just one or both sides of the body.

Swollen ankle isn’t usually painful and doesn’t typically pose as a significant risk to health. However, it is important to get the condition looked at by a medical expert to determine the cause of the swelling and to ensure it is not indicative of a more serious underlying health issue which needs to be treated immediately.

The most common causes of swollen ankle are:


Lymphedema refers to the collection of lymphatic fluid in the tissue which develops due to problems with the lymph vessels or following the removal of lymph nodes. It is important that lymphedema is treated, as a build-up of lymph fluid can lead to deformity and infection.

Standing for lengthy periods

When the muscles are inactive, fluid is not pumped back to the heart. Standing for long periods can cause a retention of water and blood, which can lead to swelling in the ankles, feet and legs.

Being overweight

Carrying surplus body weight can decrease the circulation of the blood, which can lead to fluid building up in the ankles, feet and legs.

Hormonal changes

Natural fluctuations in the hormones progesterone and estrogen can reduce the blood circulation in the legs, which can result in swelling. Such changes in hormones typically occur during a woman’s menstrual cycle or during pregnancy.


Certain medication can reduce the blood circulation and cause swelling in the lower part of the body, including steroids, testosterone and estrogen pills, certain antidepressants and anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin and ibuprofen.

If you think medication is causing swelling of the ankles, feet or legs, it is important to discuss your concerns with your doctor before you stop taking the medication.

Blood clots in the legs

A blood clot forming in the legs can hamper the flow of blood, resulting in swelling in the ankle, feet or legs.

Injury and infection

Another cause of swollen ankle can be an injury or infection that affects to legs, feet or ankles. One of the most common signs of an injury or infection in the feet or legs can increased swelling, pain, redness or warmth around the ankle and other affected areas.

Swollen ankle treatment

If you are suffering from swollen ankle it is important to talk to a vascular expert who can diagnose the condition and its causes and advise on the best form of treatment.

Treatment for swollen ankle can vary from ice packs and rest to wrapping the ankle in a compression bandage, depending on the causes of the swelling.

For diagnosis, advice and treatment for swollen ankle, contact the Vascular Consultancy, a UK leading specialist in vascular conditions and treatments.  

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Daryll Baker is a Consultant Vascular Surgeon at the Royal Free Hospital London and Clinical Lead for North Central Region Vascular Services.

He read Medicine at Oxford University and trained in Vascular Surgery in Nottingham, London and Edinburgh. He obtained his research PhD from the University of Wales.


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