What are the causes of painful swollen ankles?

Updated March 23, 2017

Swollen ankles are a common problem. According to Herbal Healing, by Phyllis A. Balch, the swelling occurs when fluid from small blood vessels enter the tissue surrounding the ankle. Swollen ankles usually aren't painful. However, there are some instances in which swollen ankles and pain go hand in hand.


Gout is a form of arthritis that can affect any joint in the body. The big toe is affected most often, but gout can also affect the ankles. According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, gout is the most painful form of arthritis. When it affects the ankles, it causes swelling, stiffness, and intense pain. The pain usually subsides within 3 to 10 days, but it can return at any time.


A sprain can occur when the ankle is twisted or turned in an awkward position. This movement stretches or tears the ligaments that hold the ankle together. According to the Mayo Clinic, a sprained ankle occurs when the ligaments are stretched too far. In addition to pain, a sprained ankle will usually swell.


A broken ankle causes pain and swelling. The ankle is fragile because it withstands a lot of pressure each time a person stands, walks, or runs. This makes the ankle prone to breaks and fractures.


This condition is caused by irritated or inflamed tendons. The tendons are fibrous tissues that attach muscle to bone. They can usually withstand a lot of pressure, but can become damaged when pushed too far.


In some cases swollen ankles may indicate a serious illness. For example, swollen ankles are one of the symptoms of heart failure. It's important to know the cause of the swelling and pain in order to get the correct treatment.

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About the Author

Michelle Strait is a professional writer with over five years of experience. She has written for several publications, including "Writer's Digest." She has also created logic puzzles for "Penny Press Magazine." Strait graduated from the University of Alabama with a bachelor's degree in journalism and English.