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6 Common Causes for Swollen Feet and Ankles

Swollen ankles and feet are pretty common and usually not something you need to worry about if it happens once in a while. If you work long hours and your job involves you to remain standing or to walk a lot, it is not uncommon to find swelling in your ankles and feet. However, having swelling in your ankles and feet that stays for a long time or the swelling is accompanied by other symptoms as well, it could be an indication of having an underlying health problem.

6 Common Causes for Swollen Feet and Ankles

6 Common Causes for Swollen Feet and Ankles

Here are some of the common causes of swollen feet and ankles:

  1. Injury to the Foot or Ankle

    One of the most common causes of swollen feet and ankles is an injury to the ankle or foot. The most common type of injury is a sprained ankle, which happens when a misstep or another type of injury causes the ligaments that hold the ankle in place to get stretched out beyond the normal range. In fact, ankle sprains account for nearly 40 percent of all sports-related injuries.(1, 2, 3)

    To decrease swelling that is caused by a foot or ankle injury, you should avoid walking on the injured foot or ankle, use ice packs to reduce the swelling, or you can also wrap the ankle or foot with a compression bandage. At the same time, keeping your foot elevated on a pillow or stool will also help. Taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as naproxen or ibuprofen can also help alleviate the pain and decrease the swelling. If necessary, you can also wear a brace or walking boot to provide extra support to your ankle. If the pain and swelling are severe or it does not improve with home remedies, you should consult a doctor.

  2. Chronic Venous Insufficiency

    Chronic venous insufficiency (CVI) is another common cause of swelling in the ankles and feet. This condition usually impacts the valves located in the veins of the leg, but it is possible for it to affect other places in the body as well.(4, 5, 6) Chronic venous insufficiency is an uncomfortable and painful condition, and it can also cause noticeable changes to your skin.(7)

    In normal circumstances, the valves in the leg veins ensure that the blood flows towards the heart. However, in a person with CVI, the valves malfunction, which lets the blood to start flowing backward. This causes the blood to pool in the lower legs and ankles, causing swelling.

    Your doctor will come up with a personalized treatment plan to help you deal with chronic venous insufficiency. Some treatment options for CVI include:(8)

  3. Certain Medications

    There are certain medications also that can cause the feet and ankles to swell up as a side effect. Edema is the side effect of drugs like:(9)

    Those who suspect that their swollen feet and ankles could be a side effect of a medication they are taking should discuss the same with their doctor. Your doctor may prescribe certain diuretic medications to reduce the swelling or recommend some other methods to help reduce the swelling if it is interfering with your everyday life.

  4. Cellulitis

    Bacterial infections that affect the skin are known as cellulitis. Cellulitis is most commonly observed in people with diabetes. This type of infection can cause a variety of symptoms, such as warm skin, redness, and swelling that spreads through the body rapidly. In some rare cases, cellulitis can even be fatal if left untreated.(10, 11) If you have diabetes, it is critical to keep an eye on your feet. Check your feet daily for any sores and blisters. It is possible that due to nerve damage caused by diabetes, you are unable to feel the pain, and the foot problems can rapidly get worse. If you notice a blister that seems infected or there is swelling on your feet, you should contact your doctor right away.(12)

    People with cellulitis have to be treated with antibiotics, and it is important to let your doctor know if the swelling does not go down or if it gets worse after a couple of days of treatment.

  5. Pregnancy

    In women, swollen feet and ankles are a common symptoms. This happens due to a variety of factors, including:(13, 14)

    • Changing hormones
    • Pressure on the veins due to the extra weight of the uterus
    • Fluid retention

    You will find that your feet are especially swollen in the evening time, and after spending the day on your feet. Swollen ankles and feet become even more noticeable during the fifth month of pregnancy. The swelling will go away after delivery, and until then, here are some tips to help reduce or lessen the swelling:

    • While sitting, keep your feet raised.
    • Avoid standing for too long.
    • Spend some time in the pool.
    • Keep yourself as cool as possible.
    • Limit spending too much time outside in hot weather.
    • Wear compression socks, stockings, or tights.
    • Avoid wearing high heels and wear comfortable shoes.
    • Try to sleep on your left side.
    • Eat foods that are rich in potassium.
    • Avoid having caffeinated beverages.
    • Reduce your salt intake.
    • Apply cold compresses.
    • Wear loose-fitting clothes.
    • Follow a regular exercise schedule as approved and recommended by your doctor.
  6. Blood Clot

    In some cases, a blood clot can develop in one of the veins in your leg or arm. This is known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT), and it requires emergency medical care. DVT causes obstruction of the flow of blood returning to the heart, which causes it to accumulate in the affected part. Sometimes, the body is able to make up for this blockage by diverting the blood through smaller neighboring veins, and over time, these veins will eventually get larger and be capable of draining blood from the part. However, if these veins do not enlarge, the part may remain swelling. Persistent swelling and pain after the development of a DVT is known as post-thrombotic syndrome.(15, 16)

    If you have a DVT, you should consider doing the following:

    • Raising the affected part.
    • Taking anticoagulant medications or blood thinners.
    • Wearing compression stockings to help promote blood flow.
    • Undergo a stent procedure, which is when a surgeon inserts a tube into the blocked vein to keep it open.


If you are experiencing swelling in your feet and ankles, it is a good idea first to try to resolve the swelling with home remedies. There can be many causes of a swollen foot and ankle. If you are pregnant, it is likely due to fluid retention or fluctuating hormones. Sometimes it can also be due to the body’s response to an injury or infection.

However, it is also possible that the swelling is a sign of a serious medical condition. If the swelling persists or it gets worse, you should consult a doctor at the earliest to determine the underlying cause of the swelling. A doctor will run some tests to find out the cause and come up with a treatment plan.


  1. Halabchi, F. & Hassabi, M., 2020. Acute ankle sprain in athletes: Clinical Aspects and Algorithmic Approach. World Journal of Orthopedics. Available at: https://www.wjgnet.com/2218-5836/full/v11/i12/534.htm [Accessed September 4, 2022].
  2. Fong, D.T.P., Hong, Y., Chan, L.K., Yung, P.S.H. and Chan, K.M., 2007. A systematic review on ankle injury and ankle sprain in sports. Sports medicine, 37(1), pp.73-94.
  3. MacAULEY, D.O.M.H.N.A.L.L., 1999. Ankle injuries: same joint, different sports. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 31(7 Suppl), pp.S409-11.
  4. Eberhardt, R.T. and Raffetto, J.D., 2005. Chronic venous insufficiency. Circulation, 111(18), pp.2398-2409.
  5. Valencia, I.C., Falabella, A., Kirsner, R.S. and Eaglstein, W.H., 2001. Chronic venous insufficiency and venous leg ulceration. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 44(3), pp.401-424.
  6. White, J.V. and Ryjewski, C., 2005. Chronic venous insufficiency. Perspectives in vascular surgery and endovascular therapy, 17(4), pp.319-327.
  7. Anon, Chronic venous insufficiency. Chronic Venous Insufficiency | Society for Vascular Surgery. Available at: https://vascular.org/patients-and-referring-physicians/conditions/chronic-venous-insufficiency [Accessed September 4, 2022].
  8. Spiridon, M. and Corduneanu, D., 2017. Chronic venous insufficiency: a frequently underdiagnosed and undertreated pathology. Mædica, 12(1), p.59.
  9. Trayes, K.P., Studdiford, J., Pickle, S. and Tully, A.S., 2013. Edema: diagnosis and management. American family physician, 88(2), pp.102-110.
  10. Quirke, M., Ayoub, F., McCabe, A., Boland, F., Smith, B., O’Sullivan, R. and Wakai, A., 2017. Risk factors for nonpurulent leg cellulitis: a systematic review and meta‐analysis. British Journal of Dermatology, 177(2), pp.382-394.
  11. Zacay, G., Hershkowitz Sikron, F. and Heymann, A.D., 2021. Glycemic control and risk of cellulitis. Diabetes Care, 44(2), pp.367-372.
  12. Larkin, J.G., Frier, B.M. and Ireland, J.T., 1985. Diabetes mellitus and infection. Postgraduate medical journal, 61(713), p.233.
  13. Bamigboye, A.A. and Hofmeyr, G.J., 2006. Interventions for leg edema and varicosities in pregnancy: What evidence?. European Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Reproductive Biology, 129(1), pp.3-8.
  14. Watanabe, Y., Koshiyama, M. and Yanagisawa, N., 2017. Treatment of leg and foot edema in women. Women’s Health—Open Journal, 3(2), pp.69-74.
  15. Trayes, K.P., Studdiford, J., Pickle, S. and Tully, A.S., 2013. Edema: diagnosis and management. American family physician, 88(2), pp.102-110.
  16. Cesarone, M.R., Belcaro, G., Errichi, B.M., Nicolaides, A.N., Geroulakos, G., Ippolito, E., Winford, M., Lennox, A., Pellegrini, L., Myers, K.A. and Ricci, A., 2003. The LONFLIT4-concorde deep venous thrombosis and edema study: prevention with travel stockings. Angiology, 54(2), pp.143-154.
Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:October 15, 2022

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