How to relieve my swollen ankles

Written by
Isabella Williams

Swollen ankles can be extremely uncomfortable. We’ve all had them at some point in our lives, whether from flying or from a more serious condition.

Swollen ankles can be caused by a number of ailments. See below to find out more...

If you have swollen ankles, there are some ways you can help the swelling at home – for example implementing a lifestyle change or by simply elevating your legs.

Always remember that leg swelling can be caused by something trivial. However, if the swelling doesn’t go down after a few days, or if it gets worse and you start to feel a fever or start exhibiting shortness of breath, seek out help immediately.

Read on to find the best cause of action for you.

Reasons for swollen ankles or oedema

Oedema simply means the build-up of watery fluids in the cavities or tissues of the body. It can be caused by a number of things, some of which are manageable with home remedies. Some are more serious, this is when you need to seek medical help.

Do your feet or ankles look puffy, red or swollen? Here are some of the most common causes of feet or ankle swelling…

  • Standing and walking a lot – If you work in retail, you’re a hairdresser or a nurse or doctor your occupation requires you to be on your feet for long periods of time. The pressure from standing or walking makes your feet swell up.
  • Sitting in the same position for a long period of time – Ironically, the opposite creates the same outcome. Excessive sitting restricts the blood flow from your feet back to your heart. This is why people get puffy ankles while travelling on planes or working in offices.
  • Being overweight – The pressure of carrying extra weight results in swollen ankles.
  • Certain medication – Medication such as blood pressure medicines, contraceptive pills, antidepressants or steroids affects your blood circulation.
  • Injury – Strains or sprains can also be a cause of swollen ankles.
  • Pregnancy – It is a well-known fact that swollen ankles are a part of pregnancy. However, if you have a sudden, painful swelling, you must seek help from a doctor immediately.
  • Insect bites or stings - These cause swelling but will eventually go away by themselves.
  • Problems with your kidneys, liver or heart – A build-up of fluid in your ankles could be a sign of kidney disease, liver disease or heart failure. This condition is far more serious than the other causes and if you suspect that this is the case you must seek help immediately.
  • A blood clot – If your legs are swelling because of a blood clot this could be very serious. Deep clots could break loose and travel to the heart and lungs. If you have swelling in one leg that’s painful, a low-grade fever, and possibly a change in colour of the affected leg seek emergency medical help immediately.
  • An infection – This can affect people with diabetic neuropathy or other nerve problems. These people are at a greater risk of foot infections. If you have diabetes you need to check your feet daily because the nerve damage can decrease pain sensation and problems can progress quickly.
  • Poor circulation and high blood pressure - These in general, can cause swollen ankles.

Woman relieving her swollen feet with a rise and recline chair.

How to treat swollen ankles

If you have swollen or puffy ankles, feet or legs and shiny, stretched or red skin you might have oedema.

Most swelling goes away on its own but there are a few things you can try to help the swelling go down quicker.

  • Elevate your feet – Use a pillow, electric riser recliner armchair or an adjustable bed.
  • Gentle exercise to encourage blood flow – Simply getting up and walking around every hour can significantly reduce ankle swelling.
  • Wear wide, comfortable shoes with a low heel and soft sole – If your swollen ankles are painful this will ease the pain while wearing shoes.
  • Wash, dry and moisturise your feet to avoid infection – This is a good health tip for anyone to practice. Prevent swollen feet in the first place by keeping good hygiene.
  • Don’t stand or sit for long periods of time – Keep moving and take breaks.
  • Don’t wear clothes, socks or shoes that are too tight – This restricts circulation and creates swelling in your legs, ankles and feet.

If the swelling does not go down after a few days or gets worse, consult your GP.

The NHS website recommends that you should call 111 if…

  • The swelling is only in one ankle, foot or leg and there’s no obvious cause, such as an injury.
  • The swelling is severe or has started suddenly.
  • The swollen area feels red or is hot to touch.
  • Your temperature is high or you feel hot and shivery.
  • You have diabetes.

Only call 999 if…

  • You are struggling to breathe or have a shortness of breath.
  • Your chest feels tight, heavy or painful.

If this is the case, you could have a blood clot in your lungs, which needs immediate treatment in a hospital.

Why a riser recliner chair can help with swollen ankles

The NHS recommends that you elevate your feet to help relieve swelling. The Middletons High Leg Lift Motor on our Rise and Recline chairs, with one swift action, raises the feet above the hips and reduces swelling caused by oedema.

Being seated in this position allows gravity to aid circulation of the blood in your feet back to the heart, thus reducing ankle swelling.

Browse our mobility chair range here…


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