Overview

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
  • taking certain medicines – such as some blood pressure medicines, contraceptive pills, hormone therapy, antidepressants or steroids

Oedema can also be caused by:

Check if you have oedema

Symptoms of oedema include:

  • Swollen or puffy ankles, feet or legs
  • Shiny or stretched skin
  • Changes in skin colour, discomfort, stiffness and dents when you press on the skin

How to ease swelling yourself

Swelling in your ankles, feet or legs should go away on its own, but there are some things you can try to help.

Do:

  • raise your legs or the swollen area on a chair or pillows 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

See a GP if:

1 or both of your ankles, foot or legs are swollen and:

  • it has not improved after treating it at home for a few days
  • it gets worse

Get advice from NHS 111 Wales call 111:

  • you have swelling 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 and your feet, ankles or legs are swollen

Call 999 if:

  • you feel short of breath or are struggling to breathe
  • your chest feels tight, heavy or painful
  • you're coughing up blood

You could have a blood clot in your lungs, which needs immediate treatment in hospital.

Treatment for swelling and oedema

Treatment for swelling or oedema that does not go away on its own will depend on the cause.  Your GP can help you with the right treatment.

Speak to your GP about making, lifestyle changes, such as losing weight or going on a low-salt diet.



The information on this page has been adapted by NHS Wales from original content supplied by NHS UK NHS website nhs.uk
Last Updated: 08/06/2022 14:03:33