What Are Swollen Ankles a Sign Of?

Reviewed on 11/11/2020

What Causes Swollen Ankles?

Swollen ankles can be a result of overuse or injury, arthritis conditions, pregnancy, certain prescription drugs and other medical conditions.
Swollen ankles can be a result of overuse or injury, arthritis conditions, pregnancy, certain prescription drugs and other medical conditions.

Ankle swelling can be a common symptom of many different conditions, such as:

What Is the Treatment for Swollen Ankles?

Treatment for swollen ankles depends on the cause. 

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

  • Rest 
  • Ice 
  • Compression wrap the foot or ankle 
  • Elevate the foot 
  • 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 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 
  • Wound cleansing and management
  • Antibiotics
  • Surgery
    • Ingrown toenail
    • Lifting the nail (may done at home)
    • 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

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Reviewed on 11/11/2020
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