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 – read about swollen ankles, feet and fingers in pregnancy
taking certain medicines – such as some blood pressure medicines, contraceptive pills, antidepressants or steroids
Oedema can also be caused by:

an injury – such as a strain or sprain
an insect bite or sting
problems with your kidneys, liver or heart
a blood clot
an infection
Check if you have oedema

Symptoms of oedema include:

Swollen or puffy ankles, feet or legs.

Shiny, stretched or red 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.

lie down and use pillows to raise the swollen area 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
do not stand or sit for long periods of time
do not wear clothes, socks or shoes that are too tight
Non-urgent advice: See a GP if your ankle, foot or leg is swollen and:
it has not improved after treating it at home for a few days
it gets worse
Coronavirus update: how to contact a GP

It’s still important to get help from a GP if you need it. To contact your GP surgery:

visit their website
use the NHS App
call them
Find out about using the NHS during coronavirus
Urgent advice: Get advice from 111 now if:
the swelling is only 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
111 will tell you what to do. They can arrange a phone call from a nurse or doctor if you need one.

Go to 111.nhs.uk or call 111.

Other ways to get help
Immediate action required: Call 999 if:
you feel short of breath or are struggling to breathe
your chest feels tight, heavy or painful
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.

It may include lifestyle changes, such as losing weight or going on a low-salt diet.