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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:

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.

Do

  • 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

Don't

  • do not stand or sit for long periods of time

  • do not wear clothes, socks or shoes that are too tight

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.