how to get rid of swollen ankles fast

How to get rid of swollen ankles fast

4 min read |
Alistair Clay Author

Author 16.03.2023

Alistair Clay

If you suffer from water retention or oedema, you may wonder how to get rid of swollen ankles fast.

Fluid build up and swollen ankles can be an uncomfortable experience, but it doesn’t have to last long.

There are many ways to get rid of swollen ankles, as well as preventing them in the first place.

This article will cover everything you need to know about oedema and how to get rid of swollen ankles fast.

Here’s a summary of what we’ll cover:

  • Swollen ankles, which are also known as oedema, are the result of water retention and the forces of gravity.
  • The cause is often due to standing or sitting in the same position for long periods, and is avoidable.
  • There are some conditions that make swollen ankles more likely, such as those affecting the heart and the kidneys. 
  • While swollen ankles aren’t usually an emergency, people experiencing unusual or long periods of swelling should seek medical advice. 
causes of swollen ankles

What are swollen ankles?

Swollen ankles or oedema describes the build up of fluid in the ankles, known as water retention.

This fluid build up can also occur in the feet, legs and sometimes wrists. 

It’s generally easy to get rid of swollen ankles by making adaptations to your diet and elevating the legs.

However, some medical conditions can cause swollen ankles and may need further attention.

What causes swollen ankles?

If you are prone to water retention in the ankles, there are a number of things that make it more likely to occur. 

  • standing or sitting for too long in one position 
  • overconsuming salty food
  • being overweight
  • medicines – eg. for blood pressure

Swollen ankles and salt levels

Excess salt in your body causes it to retain more water, giving way to swollen ankles, feet and legs. 

You may experience swollen ankles from time to time, when dehydrated or in hot weather. 

Or high salt levels may be a regular occurrence as a result of a bigger problem.

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Feeling hot?

In hot weather some people experience swelling in their feet and ankles.

This is due to constriction in the blood vessels that helps you stay cool.

But while your heart is already working harder, gravity causes fluid to move down the legs and into tissues.

It causes swelling known as heat oedema, which can be prevented by elevation, hydration and movement in hot weather.

swollen ankles in elderly

Sedentary lifestyle

Swollen ankles may be a result of lack of movement and an overall sedentary lifestyle. 

While this lifestyle causes fluid retention, it’s also bad for your overall health. 

Movement allows you to work your muscles, get your heart pumping and keep your brain active as you age. 

For advice on how to get into shape after 50, read our guides on chair yoga for seniors or couch to 5K plan for seniors.

It’s not always water retention

If you sustain an injury or infection or get an insect bite in the area, your body may respond with swelling. 

Follow the Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation process to help reduce swelling and pain.

why are ankles swelling?

How to get rid of swollen ankles fast

Swollen ankles are uncomfortable for those who experience them, and could pose a health risk if left untreated. 

Not only do they cause discomfort, they may cause health concerns and confidence issues. 

Plus, they can reduce your mobility and limit you physically.

Thankfully, there are lots of fuss-free ways to help you get rid of swollen ankles fast.

watermellons to reduce swelling


Changing your diet can help if you’re wondering how to get rid of swollen ankles fast. 

As swollen ankles occur as a result of water retention, eating naturally diuretic foods helps your body reduce the amount of water it stores. 

These diuretic foods include asparagus, celery, berries, watermelon, onions and garlic. 

Eating foods high in magnesium, such as whole grains, legumes and dark leafy vegetables, can also help reduce swollen ankles.

salt in diet and ankle swelling

Reduce salt intake

Swollen ankles can also be the result of a high sodium diet as salt causes you to retain water in the body. 

Excess salt contributes to swelling as well as conditions relating to the heart and kidneys. 

When your salt levels are too high, your blood vessels constrict which forces fluids into the spaces between cells. 

This leads to water retention particularly in the lower limbs where gravity is pulling fluid downwards.

symptoms of dehydration


Hydration is key to reducing swollen ankles, as well as being integral for overall health and wellbeing at any age. 

Regularly drinking water and reducing drinks containing caffeine or alcohol prevents dehydration and helps get rid of swollen ankles fast. 

Know how to spot the symptoms of dehydration in elderly to prevent your loved one from becoming dehydrated. 

If your loved one has dementia and struggles with hydration, consider using hydrating dementia jelly drops.  

how to fix swollen ankles


Gravity is a key component of swollen ankles, as fluid moves downwards down the legs. 

If you are experiencing swollen ankles, elevation is key to work against gravity’s downward pull. 

By elevating the ankle and taking the weight off your feet, extra fluid moves back towards the heart more easily. 

So put your feet up and let gravity work the other way!


Massaging swollen ankles, feet or legs can help move the fluid out of the area and reduce swelling.

This lymphatic drainage massage uses firm pressure to guide fluid away from the affected area. 

This is something an elderly carer could support you or your loved one with.

compression stockings and swollen ankles

Compression stockings

Compression stockings are designed to apply pressure to your lower legs, helping to maintain blood flow. 

They help reduce swelling and any discomfort in the legs, feet and ankles caused by the oedema. 

Compression stockings are a good way to get rid of swollen ankles fast, but should not replace hydration and diet. 

Epsom salts

Epsom salts are a supplement containing magnesium sulfate that is absorbed through the skin. 

Soaking your feet in a bath with epsom salts can help reduce swelling, but ensure the water isn’t too hot.

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Are swollen ankles dangerous?

Swollen ankles, or any swelling in the feet and legs can be harmless. 

However, it may also indicate a more serious condition – diagnosed or not. 

Therefore, if swollen ankles are a persistent problem, consult your doctor for advice and further testing.

Swollen ankles and diabetes

If you have diabetes and are experiencing swollen ankles, it is recommended to seek urgent medical advice

Swollen feet and ankles are a common symptom of diabetes, but long periods of swelling may mean your blood sugar is too high. 

This is because high blood sugar affects your blood vessels, which can allow fluid to pool in your feet and ankles.

early signs of diabetes

Diabetes and blood clots

People with diabetes may also be at a higher risk of a type of blood clot called deep vein thrombosis. 

Blood clots are extremely serious and require immediate medical attention. 

They are identified by swelling in only one leg, including the foot.

what causes swollen ankles

When to seek medical advice for swollen ankles

Seek medical advice if you have a medical condition and are experiencing swelling in your feet, ankles or legs.

This is due to higher risk complications like heart or kidney problems which can also cause swelling.

Unless you are diabetic, getting rid of swollen ankles doesn’t usually need medical intervention.

However, seek medical advice if you have swelling in your ankles, feet or legs which gets worse or doesn’t improve after home treatment.

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Alistair Clay Author

Author 16.03.2023

Alistair Clay

Alistair is a founding Director of Sweet Pea Care and the Managing Director of social care communications agency Arc Seven where he advises some of the UK’s biggest care providers.