If you experience swelling in your legs and ankles, you may wonder what’s causing it. Usually, swollen ankles don’t mean there’s anything seriously wrong with you — it’s just your body’s way of saying you need more physical activity. Water and fluid retention often pool in the lower legs and ankles due to sitting for prolonged periods or not exercising. Sadly, many people in the modern world don’t move their bodies enough and may experience fluid retention.

Swollen ankles, also called edema in medical terminology, usually heal themselves. However, they can sometimes signal a more serious underlying condition that requires medical attention. Either way, ankle swelling can feel uncomfortable and even painful, so it’s essential to understand the causes so you can treat the problem. Below, we’ll discuss some common causes of swollen ankles and ways to treat the condition.

The 6 Most Common Reasons For Swollen Ankles (and How to Heal Them Naturally)


1. A sedentary lifestyle

One of the most common reasons for ankle swelling is physical inactivity. Sitting in the same position for hours causes fluid retention and inflammation. Also, being sedentary decreases blood circulation, meaning blood begins to pool around the extremities. In some cases, this can have life-threatening consequences, as it can lead to blood clots or venous insufficiency. If you have a blood clot, you may experience swelling or leg pain in the affected area.

However, avoiding blood clots and other serious consequences caused by a sedentary lifestyle is simple. The CDC recommends adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity and two days of muscle strength training weekly. If you can’t exercise that much, do the best you can. Walking for 30 minutes daily can improve your health by lowering blood pressure and increasing circulation.

Also, compression socks can enhance blood flow from the legs to the heart by applying gentle pressure. If you sit for long periods for work, consider purchasing these to feel more comfortable. Finally, elevate your legs periodically to reduce swelling and lower your risk of developing blood clots.

2. Eating excess salt

Eating a high-sodium diet can cause fluid retention in the ankles and other areas of the body. Your body needs salt to balance electrolytes, but overeating salt forces you to retain water to dilute the excess sodium. This can lead to unnecessary kidney strain and potentially cause additional concerns, like heart disease and high blood pressure.

Plus, many foods high in salt, such as fast foods and processed items, tend to have more calories. Eating an unhealthy diet can cause more problems than just swollen ankles — it can also promote weight gain and obesity.

Try cutting back on salt if it’s causing swelling or fluid retention. Even swapping a bag of chips for an apple daily could make a difference in how you feel. These healthier habits will likely encourage you to change your diet and exercise routine dramatically.

3. Pregnancy causes swelling  of the legs, feet, and ankles

Many women experience swollen ankles during pregnancy, as a growing baby puts immense strain on the body. The baby presses on the mother’s veins, which can reduce blood circulation and cause fluid retention. Also, pregnancy leads to hormonal changes in a woman’s body, which can sometimes cause swelling in the legs and feet.

Elevating your feet and wearing comfortable shoes can help reduce fluid retention. It’s also important to avoid standing for long periods so excess water doesn’t pool in your extremities. Finally, light exercises like walking and sleeping on your left side can alleviate the swelling. Lying on your left side reduces pressure on the inferior vena cava, the large blood vessel that transports blood to the heart.

Drinking water does more than reduce ankle swelling but also contributes to living longer.

4. Being overweight or obese

Carrying around excess weight puts intense pressure on the body and decreases blood circulation. That can cause water to accumulate in the legs and ankles, leading to swelling and other serious health problems. In some cases, being overweight or obese may cause neuropathy, osteoarthritis, gout, and lymphedema.

Lymphedema occurs when the lymphatic system cannot adequately remove lymph fluid, leading to chronic swelling. When this happens, it may even increase infections since the lymph contains white blood cells that protect the body from disease.

Increasing physical activity is the best remedy for swollen ankles caused by excess weight. Combined with a healthy diet, this can drastically reduce swelling around your ankles and overall inflammation.

5. Taking certain medications

Some medications, like antidepressants, steroids, blood pressure medications, hormones, and NSAIDs, can cause swollen ankles. If you believe your medicines are causing fluid retention, talk with your doctor to discuss alternatives. They may prescribe another medication, lower the dosage, or recommend a diuretic to eliminate water retention.

6. Having an injury

Finally, having an ankle or leg injury can cause swelling since blood rushes to the impacted area, creating inflammation. Usually, time and proper rest will heal the wound and reduce swelling. Keeping your legs elevated, applying ice, and using compression bandages can speed your recovery.

If you experience ankle swelling due to these factors, it’s ordinarily reversible with proper care and lifestyle changes. However, fluid around the ankles can signal heart, kidney, or liver disease.

These conditions cause fluids to accumulate in the body tissues, which can have serious consequences. In the case of heart failure, the heart becomes too weak to pump blood to the lungs. This causes blood to accumulate in the veins, pushing water into the tissues.

If you have kidney disease, excess salt in the blood causes your body to retain water. With liver disease, the liver cannot efficiently filter toxins, which leads to fluid buildup in the extremities.

If you suspect an underlying medical condition, immediately make a doctor’s appointment for proper treatment.


Final Thoughts on Causes and Treatments for Swollen Ankles

You’re probably concerned about what’s causing this strange symptom if you have ankle swelling. Understandably, you’d want to get to the root of the problem to seek the proper care and treatment. It’s best to make a doctor’s appointment so they can identify the cause and help you formulate a treatment plan. However, it can also come from lifestyle habits, including a lack of exercise or a salty diet that causes water retention. You might reverse the problem by engaging in physical activity and eating fresh. In that case, whole foods will often correct the problem. Remember that, most of the time, getting back to the basics of health can eliminate diseases and restore balance in the mind and body.