Swollen ankles

Swelling of the ankles is a debilitating problem. There are a number of causes. It is a recognized side effect of varicose veins and deep venous incompetence. Other causes include obesity, heart failure, lymphoedema and lipoedema. Unilateral ankle swelling is more likely to have a local cause such as venous disease, arthritis of the ankle or knee, or previous surgery or injury to the leg.

As there are a number of causes for ankle swelling, assessment is important to identify the cause, particularly causes that can be readily treated such as varicose veins. Initial assessment will use ultrasound to assess the venous function and to look for varicose veins. If these are excluded, more complex investigations may be required, depending on the history and clinical findings.

Mild swelling of the ankles can be managed with compression stockings.