Swollen ankles, feet and legs (oedema)
Swelling in the ankles, feet or legs often goes away on its own. See a GP if it does not get better in a few days.
Common causes of swollen ankles, feet and legs
Swelling in the ankles, feet and legs is often caused by a build-up of fluid in these areas, called oedema.
Oedema is usually caused by:
- standing or sitting in the same position for too long
- eating too much salty food
- being overweight
- being pregnant – read about swollen ankles, feet and fingers in pregnancy
- taking certain medicines – such as some blood pressure medicines, contraceptive pills, antidepressants or steroids
Oedema can also be caused by:
- an injury – such as a strain or sprain
- an insect bite or sting
- problems with your kidneys, liver or heart
- a blood clot
- an infection
Symptoms of oedema include:
Swelling in your ankles, feet or legs should go away on its own, but there are some things you can try to help.
- lie down and use pillows to raise the swollen area when you can
- get some gentle exercise, like walking, to improve your blood flow
- wear wide, comfortable shoes with a low heel and soft sole
- wash, dry and moisturise your feet to avoid infections
- do not stand or sit for long periods of time
- do not wear clothes, socks or shoes that are too tight
Non-urgent advice: See a GP if your ankle, foot or leg is swollen and:
- it has not improved after treating it at home for a few days
- it gets worse
Urgent advice: Get advice from 111 now if:
- the swelling is only in 1 ankle, foot or leg and there's no obvious cause, such as an injury
- the swelling is severe, painful or starts very suddenly
- the swollen area is red or feels hot to the touch
- your temperature is very high, or you feel hot and shivery
- you have diabetes
111 will tell you what to do. They can arrange a phone call from a nurse or doctor if you need one.
Other ways to get help
Get an urgent GP appointment
A GP may be able to treat you.
Ask your GP practice for an urgent appointment.
Immediate action required: Call 999 if:
- you feel short of breath or are struggling to breathe
- your chest feels tight, heavy or painful
You could have a blood clot in your lungs, which needs immediate treatment in hospital.
Treatment for swelling or oedema that does not go away on its own will depend on the cause.
It may include lifestyle changes, such as losing weight or going on a low-salt diet.