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What are the Most Common Causes of a Swollen Ankle?

By Steve R.
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A swollen ankle is a common condition in which the ankle becomes inflamed due to an overabundance of fluid in the soft tissues around the ankle. An ankle can also become swollen when the ligaments that keep it in place become overextended. Often resulting in pain and limiting mobility, almost anyone can suffer from a swollen ankle. Common causes of a swollen ankle may include injury, pregnancy, arthritis, and medication.

One of the most common causes of a swollen ankle is a stress injury. An injury is often sports related or can be due to a fall or overuse. When an individual makes a misstep, typically one side of an ankle will become swollen. Such injuries often occur when a person moves the ankle in a way it is not designed or prepared for. The degree of swelling depends on the quantity of tissue that is impaired.

During pregnancy, it is typical for a woman to experience some type of swelling in the ankle. However, severely swollen ankles may be a symptom of a condition called preeclampsia. This condition, affecting an expectant mother sometime around the 20th week of pregnancy, also includes elevated blood pressure, protein in the urine, stomach pain, nausea, and headaches.

Causes of a swollen ankle often include diseases that affect the joints in the ankle. One type of chronic illness is ankle arthritis, which occurs when the area where the ankle bone and shin bone meet deteriorates. Ankle arthritis is often classified as rheumatoid arthritis, as it is caused by an overactive immune system. An individual who is severely overweight or experiences an ankle injury may develop ankle arthritis and also experience redness and warmth around the ankle.

Gout, a form of arthritis, is another frequent reason for puffy ankles. Gout is typically caused by an abnormal amount of uric acid fluid building up in the ankles. Uric acid is generated during digestion to help rid the body of toxins and waste. This type of arthritis is characterized by intense pain, often at night, and affects more men than women.

Medication may also cause swollen ankles. Causes of a swollen ankle may be due to calcium channel blockers, which are taken by people with high blood pressure. Antidepressants, estrogen, and steroids also may cause ankles to swell. Individuals who use a laxative, which is taken to relieve constipation, may experience swollen ankles as well. Swollen ankles may also be result of an infection or poor blood circulation.

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Discussion Comments

By Sue67 — On Aug 17, 2014

I have had a issue with constipation due to adhesions in the colon, and now I am on Metamucil every day to help me with bowel movements until I see the doctor again.

My issue is that now I have suddenly developed swollen ankles. Is there any connection to the constipation or Metamucil with the swelling of ankles?

By JackWhack — On Aug 05, 2012

@anon169997 – My aunt has asthma, and she also has swollen ankles caused by edema. The asthma is the reason she has this fluid in her ankles, so that is the connection.

The swelling isn't confined to her ankles, though. Sometimes, she has edema in her legs and hands, as well. Her asthma is pretty severe, and I would think it would have to be to cause this.

By kylee07drg — On Aug 05, 2012

I started having swollen feet and ankles a few years ago. I knew that I had polycystic kidney disease, and I hoped that my condition hadn't worsened enough to cause edema there.

I found out that I had high blood pressure as a result of my disease, and this was what made my ankles swell. I suppose that my circulation had become poor in my feet and calves from the increased pressure.

After a few days on blood pressure medication, the swelling went away. I've been on the medicine for years, and my feet and ankles have not swollen since I started taking it.

By orangey03 — On Aug 04, 2012

An ankle sprain is what causes my swollen ankle most often. I seem to be rather clumsy when it comes to walking down my porch steps, and I have injured myself multiple times there.

Usually, I miss the bottom step, and the top of my foot curls under when it hits the concrete below. This pulls my ankle ligaments way too much, and it hurts badly for several minutes.

The first time I did this, my ankle didn't swell. However, when I did it again a few days later, it did swell. I guess overstressing the ligaments twice in one week was too much.

By anon169997 — On Apr 24, 2011

Does asthma have anything to do with swollen ankles?

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