Lifestyle Health and Wellbeing 20 Aug 2019 8 causes of swollen ...

8 causes of swollen feet and ankles

Published Aug 20, 2019, 1:19 pm IST
Updated Aug 20, 2019, 4:06 pm IST
An expert lays down the reasons for swollen ankles and feet.
Standing or sitting for long hours causes swollen feet. (Photo: Representational/Pexels)
 Standing or sitting for long hours causes swollen feet. (Photo: Representational/Pexels)

Known as edema in medical jargon, swelling is a pretty common phenomenon. Especially in our feet and ankles, all thanks to gravity. It’s painful at times, and it gets pretty uncomfortable to walk too. What causes swelling though? Here are 8 causes of swollen feet and ankles:

Sitting or standing for long hours


One of the most common reasons for a swollen ankle is prolonged sitting or standing, especially if your job involves this. Steven Weinfeld, MD, and a foot and ankle surgeon from New York says, “When you move around, the muscles involved in that movement actually help pump fluid and blood to and from your limbs.” If your movement is restricted, blood tends to pool in the feet and ankles.

Pregnancy side effect

The body undergoes a lot of changes during pregnancy. And a typical change is swollen feet and ankles. The American Pregnancy Association explains that when a person is expecting, their body produces extra fluid and blood which soften the body, and help in expansion as the baby grows. Other causes of swollen feet in pregnancy include hormonal changes and pressure on veins.



According to Prevention, another common reason for swollen feet is injury. It could be anything, from a minor incident like your feet hitting a coffee table, to a major collision or spraining your ankle while running. Dr Weinfeld explained that the body sends extra blood to the injured area. “Not only does this bring healing cells, but also contributes to swelling in order to stiffen and immobilise the injured joint,” he said.


Chances are that if you have an untreated wound, the bacteria in your bloodstream can get into your joints too. The most noticeable signs of infection include redness, warmth and tenderness in the inflicted area.


Infants and older adults are the most vulnerable to septic arthritis. In septic arthritis, bacterial or fungal infections result in painful joint inflammation, coupled with fever and redness. Cellulitis, a skin condition can also result in swollen feet and ankles.

Possible lymphedema

Lymphedema refers to a condition when your lymph nodes get damaged or removed. This is mostly done as a part of cancer treatment. The body sends extra fluid which gets pooled to an extreme level. Signs of lymphedema include a tight feeling in arms or legs, hardening of skin, trouble sleeping among others.



Being overweight or obese can also cause swelling. Dr Weinfeld mentions two reasons for this. First, being overweight means there’s stress and pressure on your feet which results in fluid retention in those joints. Second, hormonal shifts can also cause fluid retention, as a result of extra hormones that get stored in extra fat cells.

Side effect of certain medications

Sometimes, certain medicines (Over-the-counter ones too) interact with your body in a complex way, causing swollen ankles and feet. “Certain medications can cause fluid retention. Some blood pressure medications, anti-inflammatory steroids, and even NSAIDs like Advil may have that effect,” Dr Weinfeld explained.


You might have arthritis

Arthritis is a very common condition that affects people (particularly older adults) all over the world. It essentially refers to joint inflammation, characterised by stiffness, swelling, tenderness, and pain in joints. “When I get an X-ray back and see that someone has bad ankle arthritis, it can certainly explain any swelling in the area,” Dr Weinfeld said.