Swollen Feet, Ankles & Lower Legs

An abnormal build-up of fluid (called edema) can occur in the feet, ankles and lower legs for a variety of reasons. Edema is a sign that you are retaining fluid in these areas of the body. Edema will usually occur in both sides of the body as opposed to only one, unless the swelling is related to an injury.

Signs & Symptoms

  • Skin appears swollen and puffy
  • Pressing down on the affected area leaves an imprint
  • Skin appears shiny or stretched
  • Affected limb feels stiff
  • Difficulty walking
  • Pain caused by swelling


If you are experiencing edema in your feet, ankles, or lower legs, this may be related to:

  • Spending long periods of time standing (or on your feet in general)
  • An ankle sprain (or other soft tissue injury)
  • Surgery (immobilization following surgery can cause edema)
  • Certain medications (edema is a side effect of several medications, including certain steroids and NSAIDs)
  • Shoes that are too tight (can interfere with your circulation)
  • An infection (some bacterial or fungal infections can cause edema)
  • Being older (the older you are, the higher your risk is of developing circulation issues)
  • Pregnancy (most pregnant women will experience edema in the lower body during pregnancy)
  • Lack of exercise (if you spend long periods of time sitting, edema can occur from lack of movement)
  • Circulatory disease (if you have a condition that negatively impacts your circulation, this means you’re more likely to develop edema)
  • Being overweight (excess weight puts more strain on the lower body, which can result in edema)
  • Consuming too much salt (salty foods can cause the body to retain more fluid, leading to edema)


Elevation – Elevating the feet/ankles/lower legs above the heart by propping them up on a pillow can help to relieve edema.

Ice & Compression – Applying ice and compression to the swollen area will help to reduce the swelling and relieve any pain you may be experiencing.

Exercises – Keeping the feet active and flexible can help prevent swelling from occurring.

Resting – If your edema is the result of spending too much time on your feet, taking short breaks to rest your feet throughout the day will help to lessen the swelling.

Proper Footwear – Shoes that fit properly can go a long way towards preventing edema. Make sure your shoes fit comfortably (not too tight or too loose) and are not worn out. Avoid high heels if you can. Make sure your shoes provide enough support to the heel and ball of your foot, as these are the areas that balance your weight.

Antibiotics – If your edema is the result of an infection, you will need to get a prescription for antibiotics from your doctor. Treating the cause of your edema should help the swelling go down.

Other Medications – If you have a circulatory disease or other health issue that has caused your edema, there may be medications that can help you manage this. Talk to your doctor to see what your options are.

Lifestyle Changes – Engaging in physical activity and losing weight can help bring down edema and prevent it from coming back in the future. Cutting down on your intake of salty foods can also help prevent edema.