Are you bothered by swollen ankles? At the end of the day it’s normal to have some swelling in your legs, particularly if you’ve been sitting or standing for long periods. Ankles may swell up and especially in hot weather. Swelling occurs in feet and ankles because of gravity, which can cause fluid to accumulate. This build-up of fluid (oedema) isn’t usually painful, unless it’s due to injury, is often temporary and clears up by itself. Swelling of the ankles is most common in older adults, and while not posing a significant health risk may indicate a more serious underlying health issue. Ankles that swell in the evening could be a sign of retaining salt and water, because of right-sided heart failure, or kidney disease. Ankles that stay swollen might indicate problems such as fluctuating levels of oestrogen and progesterone causing reduced circulation in the legs. These changes most likely occur during pregnancy and a woman’s menstrual cycle. Common causes of swollen ankles are lifestyle factors such as being overweight. Excess body mass can decrease blood circulation, causing fluid to build up. When you stand or sit for long periods your muscles are inactive, so they can’t pump body fluids back up towards the heart. The retention of water and blood causes swelling in legs and ankles. Other possible causes include a blood clot or severe varicose veins.
Swelling can also occur while taking particular medications, such as steroids, oestrogen or testosterone, some antidepressants, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, including ibuprofen and aspirin. These may reduce blood circulation by increasing the thickness of the blood, causing some swelling in the legs. If you suspect that your medication is responsible, don’t stop taking it until you speak to your GP. At home you can help yourself by elevating your legs higher whenever you lay down. Your legs should be raised so they are above your heart so you may want to place a pillow under your legs for comfort. Watch your diet, reduce your salt intake and try to maintain a healthy body weight. Ensure you stay active every day by stretching and moving your legs, standing up and walking around at least once every hour. Don’t wear garters or restrictive clothing wear support stockings or compression socks instead. While swelling isn’t usually a cause for concern, it could be a sign of something more serious. If you’re worried talk to your doctor.