What Causes Swollen Ankles and Feet?


Swollen Feet and Ankles can effect anyone

Picture the scenario. It's Saturday morning, and you headed to the farmer's market for some fresh organic veggies. The you strolled over to your favorite coffee house for a mocha. Then you walked back to the car to deposit your farmers market bag.

Then you decided to amble downtown, for some shopping. Before you know it, you've been walking around for half the day. No big deal. But when you get home, you have a hard time pulling your shoes off, and your feet are swollen and red.

Trouble, right?

Well maybe...and maybe not.

Truth is, many people have dealt with swollen ankles and feet. From the world's top athletes to armchair quarterbacks, it's all the same. Swollen feet are a condition that can affect anyone.

But swollen feet aren't always caused by the same condition. they can be anywhere on the spectrum from a minor annoyance to a symptom of a major issue-in-the-making.

Peripheral Edema - What is That?

Peripheral Edema is a fancy scientific way of saying... swollen feet, legs, and ankles. A buildup of fluid causes the swelling in most cases. Sometimes this is the effect of overworking the lower body, at other times it's the result of injury.

Differentiating between the two scenarios is key to evaluating whether you have a one-time problem, or something more indicative of a long term issue requiring treatment.

Let's talk about some of the common causes of foot and ankle swelling.

Common Causes of Foot and Ankle Swelling


Injuries to the Foot and Ankles

Swollen Feet are a major indicator of injury. Spraining an ankle is one of the more common examples here. You'll know it when you've sprained your ankle. But there are three grades of ankle sprain. Why does this matter? Your mobility and recovery time depend upon whether you've sustained a 1st, 2nd, or 3rd degree sprain.


Lymphedema is when the lymphatic fluid of the tissues builds up and blocks movement of the fluid. This can can lead to infections. Lymphedema can also impair the healing process of a wound or injury.

Patients who have undertaken treatment for cancers are at risk for lymphedema. This is due to the removal of lymph nodes which are responsible for trapping and destroying unwanted bacteria. If this is you, make sure you visit your doctor as soon as possible to mitigate the risk of further infection.

An Infection

If you are experiencing swelling and you haven't had an injury, you may have an infection. Infections are more common in people with diabetes. Why? Nerve damage in diabetics can decrease pain sensitivity in the feet. Which in turn can lead to sores and blisters (also more common in diabetics) becoming infected.

My advice once again: contact a doctor if you think you have swelling due to an infection. Especially if you are diabetic.

Other Causes of Foot and Ankle Swelling


The above listed are more frequent, but there can be other reasons that you are experiencing swollen feet and ankles:

  • Blood Clot

  • Side Effects from Medications

  • Venous insufficiency (inadequate blood flow through the veins)

  • Heart, Live, or Kidney Disease

The key here is to have a good idea of what your personal health profile looks like. If you start experiencing a problem, you will be able to track it back to the source.

How Can I Reduce Swelling and Pain From a Swollen Ankle or Foot?

I get this question from athletes quite a bit. If you have a grade one sprain, the ligaments stretch but don't tear. This makes it possible to for the injury to heal with more speed.

Here's what we recommend:

  • Give the injury a bit of rest

  • Ice the injury with cold wraps or ice packs

  • Use a bandage to compress the ankle

  • Elevate the foot and ankle

If the pain and swelling continues or becomes worse, put in a call to your foot and ankle specialist.

Good luck!