Can Rheumatoid Arthritis Cause Ankle Swelling?

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic inflammatory joint disorder. It usually begins insidiously, with the gradual ‘slow’ onset of signs and symptoms over several weeks to months. Typically the affected joint can be very stiff, also accompanied by pain or/and tenderness. As the disease progresses, multiple joints (five or more) can be affected. Can it cause ankle swelling, too?

Common causes of ankle swelling

Swollen ankle is actually common and not serious, especially true if it responds with lifestyle measures. For example, it’s common to have it if you have been walking a lot or if you get used to standing for long hours.

But if your ankle stays swollen and doesn’t respond with any lifestyle measure, see a doctor for accurate diagnosis! This is particularly true if it’s followed with unusual symptoms that could signal an emergency medical condition.

There are a number of health conditions that can lead to ankle swelling. Here are the main ones:


Any injury to the ankle can be potential to cause swelling. A sprained ankle, for example, is an injury that often causes the ligaments of ankle to stretch abnormally (beyond their normal range). If your ankle is not supported by the ligaments properly, swelling occurs.

To help relieve and soothe the swelling, avoid using the affected ankle to reduce any extra pressure and use ice packs. Wrap the affected area with compression bandage – also elevate the affected foot on a pillow /stool! If the problem doesn’t improve with home remedies, see a doctor!


Sometimes it can also signal a foot infection. Swelling is the normal mechanism of the body to respond abnormal condition such as infection. This is particularly common in people with nerve problems, diabetic neuropathy for example.

If you’re a diabetic, check your feet regularly for any sores or blisters. Typically, a swollen ankle that appears to be infected and associated with diabetes will not heal without treatment.


It is a swelling caused by the accumulation of lymphatic fluid in the tissues. It is usually caused by a problem with or absence of the lymph vessels – such as the removal of lymph nodes as a part of treating a cancer. As a result, you have a blockage in the lymphatic system that prevents your lymphatic fluid from draining well.

Treatment is necessary for lymphedema. If left untreated, the buildup of lymphatic fluid can impair wound healing, which also increases your risk of getting infection and deformity.


Sometimes swelling of feet and ankles is a consequence of pregnancy. In such a case, there is usually nothing to worry! It usually will relieve on its own after delivery.

Various factors can contribute to cause the problem. When the baby grows during pregnancy, the body can retain more fluid. Also, there will be more pressure that hits your veins due to your growing uterus. Changes of some pregnancy hormone may have a role, too. All these factors can cause swelling in the feet, legs, and ankles.

But if you have excessive swelling that occurs suddenly or gets worse quickly – see a doctor right away! This may signal serious pregnancy complication such as preeclampsia that requires immediate medical help.

Blood clot

A blockage inside blood vessel can inhibit the blood flow from and to the heart. Blood clots that occur in the blood vessels of the legs will cause swelling in the feet and ankles, because your blood can get obstructed.

Depending on the severity of each case, blood clot can turn into serious if not treated immediately especially if it blocks one or more of the main veins of your legs. Other symptoms include fever, pain, and possibly a color change of the affected ankle.

What else?
  1. Problems elsewhere in the body such as liver, heart, or kidney disease.
  2. Venous insufficiency, a condition in which blood vessels that carry blood from feet to the heart get weakened or damaged. It can be chronic, causing increased risk of complications such as infection, skin ulcers, or changes in the skin.
  3. Certain medications may also contribute to cause swelling. These include some anti-inflammatory medicines, hormonal medications, and steroids – also some medications for treating diabetes, high blood pressure, and depression.

Can rheumatoid arthritis cause ankle swelling?

RA is an autoimmune disease, a condition of when the body immune system can often mistakenly attack its own healthy cells or tissues. With unknown cause, the malfunctioned of immune system damages the lining of the membranes that cover your joints! As a result, the affected joint gets inflamed and then fluid builds up, causing painful swelling.

Though curative therapy is still not available, controlling the disease is very important to prevent the complications. It can lead to serious complications such as permanent joint damage or even death if poorly controlled.

RA can affect any joint, including ankle joints – even it can cause problems in non-joint structures. The effect of the disease is systemic (the inflammation can occur throughout the body).

The affected ankle caused by RA can be painful, stiff, and get swelled. But ankle swelling is not always associated with arthritis. Even in people with RA, the problem could be caused by something else since it can be attributed by many causes.

If RA is the main culprit of your ankle swelling, the following are other symptoms /characteristics you need to know:

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