It is common for a person’s ankles to swell while flying. Often this is harmless and goes away on its own. In rare cases, ankle swelling may be a sign of deep vein thrombosis (DVT), which is more serious and requires medical treatment.
Swollen ankles are a common side effect of long-haul flights. They most often occur due to the buildup of fluid in the legs, known as edema.
Studies show that edema is present in
In this article, we discuss the causes of swollen ankles while flying. We also outline other symptoms and provide possible prevention tips to consider before and during flying.
Swollen ankles during and after air travel may result from conditions such as a buildup of fluid and blood clots.
We discuss these causes in more detail below.
Often, a person develops swollen ankles while flying
Leg edema from flying is
Learn more about the causes of swollen ankles here.
Venous thromboembolism (VTE) is a disease that occurs when blood clots
Factors that can cause DVT during flying include:
- lower limb immobility due to sitting for extended periods
- slow blood flow (venous stasis) through the veins in the legs due to inactivity
- reduced blood flow to the deep and superficial veins of the legs
The symptoms of swollen ankles from flying may depend on the underlying condition causing it.
Leg edema symptoms
If a person has swollen ankles due to leg edema, they may experience the
- the leg starts to feel full or heavy
- the leg starts to look swollen
- when the person presses the swelling, it leaves a dent
- clothing or jewelry starts to feel tight and uncomfortable
- the skin near the swelling feels tight or warm
- it becomes more difficult to move the foot
- there is a sensation of tautness and sometimes pain in the surrounding area
Swollen ankles may also occur while flying due to DVT. Common symptoms of DVT
- swelling of the leg
- pain or tenderness around the affected area
- skin that is warm to the touch
- redness of the skin around the ankle
If a person has symptoms of DVT, they should speak with a doctor.
A pulmonary embolism (PE) is a serious complication of DVT. This happens when a part of the blood clot
This can cause a blockage in the blood vessels present in the lungs. This blockage is a PE.
If the clot is small, a person can recover with appropriate treatment. However, if the clot is large, it can stop blood from reaching the lungs, which can be fatal.
A person can develop PE even without any symptoms of DVT. Symptoms of a PE
- difficulty breathing
- a heartbeat that is irregular or faster than normal
- chest pain or discomfort that often worsens with deep breathing or coughing
- coughing up blood
A person should seek immediate medical help if they experience these symptoms.
If a person is worried about DVT while flying, they should speak to a healthcare professional. They can then understand which signs and symptoms to look out for.
Those who may be at higher risk of DVT when flying
- with a history of blood clots
- with a family history of blood clots
- who have recently had surgery
- who are pregnant
- who are taking certain medications, such as hormone replacement therapy and contraceptive agents
A person can
These stockings work to improve blood flow in the legs during flying. They exert the greatest degree of compression at the ankle. The level of compression gradually decreases up the garment.
There are a number of steps a person can take to decrease their risk of edema and DVT while flying. These
- Move the legs frequently when on long flights by walking up and down the cabin.
- Exercise the calf muscles to improve the flow of blood.
- Avoid sitting down for too long a period of time.
- If a person has been sitting for a long time, they should take a deep breath and stretch their legs.
- A person can periodically extend their legs straight out and flex the ankles, pulling the toes towards the body.
- They can also pull each knee up toward the chest and hold it there for 15 seconds, repeating this up to 10 times.
Here are some common questions about swollen ankles from flying.
How long do swollen ankles last after flying?
Swollen ankles due to flying often
However, if the swelling persists and a person experiences ongoing symptoms of DVT, they should contact a healthcare professional.
When should I be concerned about swollen ankles?
If a person experiences symptoms of DVT, they should contact a healthcare professional because this condition can cause serious illness and in some cases be life threatening. DVT symptoms
- redness of the skin
It is very common for a person’s ankles to swell during or after flying.
This is often due to a buildup of fluid known as edema. Swollen ankles due to edema are often harmless and the swelling usually goes away on its own.
In some other cases, swollen ankles may be a sign of DVT. This is a more serious condition that occurs when blood clots form in the deep veins, often in a person’s legs.
Other symptoms of DVT include pain, tenderness, and redness of the skin. A person should contact a healthcare professional if they experience symptoms of DVT or their ankle swelling does not go away after flying.
A person may also wish to wear graduated compression stockings and exercise their calf muscles while flying to help prevent swollen ankles.