How Do You Get Rid of Swollen Ankles?

Reviewed on 2/2/2022
Elderly woman's swollen ankles
Treatment for swollen ankles depends on the cause, which can include the RICE method (rest, ice, compression, elevation), over-the-counter (OTC) nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), exercises, splints, braces, surgery, steroids, antibiotics, and others.

Ankle swelling can be a common symptom of many different conditions, ranging from injury and infection, to blood clots and heart disease

It is important to see a doctor to determine the cause of and treatment for swollen ankles. Treatment to get rid of swollen ankles varies depending on the cause. 

For many causes of swollen ankles, the RICE method can be helpful: 

  • Rest 
  • Ice 
  • Compression wrap the foot or ankle 
  • Elevate the foot 

Over-the-counter (OTC) nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve) may be taken for pain.

Other treatments to get rid of swollen ankles include:

  • Swollen ankles due to standing or sitting in the same position for too long will generally go away on their own once you start moving again. 
  • Treatment for swollen ankles due to eating too much salty food will go away on its own. Limiting or avoiding salty foods can help prevent swelling. 
  • Treatment for swollen ankles due to being overweight involves diet and exercise to lose weight.
  • Swollen ankles due to an insect bite or sting can be relieved with ice or a cold compress applied to the area and raising the feet

Treatment for swollen ankles due to foot or ankle injury includes:

  • RICE method
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for pain
  • Range of motion exercises (depending on the type of injury)
  • Splints and braces
  • Surgery

Treatment for swollen ankles due to arthritis and other autoimmune conditions depends on the specific condition and may include:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Steroids
  • Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs)

Treatment for swollen ankles due to infection depends on the type of infection and may include:

  • Sores due to diabetic neuropathy and other nerve problems 
  • Ingrown toenail
    • Lifting the nail 
    • Partially removing the nail or removing the nail and tissue in more severe cases
  • Athlete’s foot
    • Antifungal cream/lotion/gel

Treatment for swollen ankles due to venous insufficiency includes:

  • Elevating the legs above heart level for 30 minutes three or four times per day 
  • Foot and ankle exercises 
  • Compression therapy 
    • Compression stockings 
    • Intermittent pneumatic compression pumps 
    • Compression bandages 
  • Medications 

Treatment for swollen ankles due to deep vein thrombosis (DVT) includes:

  • Anticoagulants
  • Thrombolytic therapy, in severe cases
  • Inferior vena cava (IVC) filter 

Treatment for swollen ankles due to lymphedema includes:

  • Skin care
  • Weight management
  • Physiotherapy
  • Compression therapy (i.e., compression bandaging, compression garments)
  • Surgery, for severe cases

Treatment for swollen ankles due to heart, liver, or kidney disease includes:

  • Treating the underlying condition
  • Reducing the amount of salt (sodium) in the diet
  • Diuretics to eliminate excess fluid
  • Compression stockings

Treatment for swollen ankles due to pregnancy complications such as preeclampsia includes:

  • The only treatment is delivery
  • If preeclampsia occurs before term, there is an attempt to delay delivery to 37 weeks 

Treatment for swollen ankles due to medication side effects includes:

  • Stopping or switching medications
  • Changing the dosage
  • Never stop taking a prescribed medication without first talking to your doctor

What Causes Swollen Ankles?

Causes of swollen ankles include: 

How Are Swollen Ankles Diagnosed?

Swollen ankles are a symptom and can be seen on physical examination. A doctor will also note the patient’s medical history, any underlying conditions, and the history of symptoms. 

Tests used to diagnose the cause of swollen ankles may include: 

Reviewed on 2/2/2022
Image Source: iStock Images