By Medicover Hospitals / 12 Jan 2021
Swellings in the ankles, feet, and legs often disappear on their own. Swelling of the ankles, feet, and legs is often caused by a buildup of fluid in these areas, called edema.
- What is a swollen ankle?
- When to visit a Doctor?
- Home remedies
What is a swollen ankle?
Ankle swelling indicates fluid accumulation or inflammation of the joints and tissues of the ankle. Slight swelling of the ankle is a common occurrence after a long period of rest.
Swelling of the ankle, also called edema, can also result from serious infections, trauma, circulatory disorders, heart problems, and other abnormal processes.
One or both ankles may swell for a short time, for example after standing or sitting for a long time during a long aerial flight. Ankle swelling can also be due to pregnancy, being overweight, vascular problems, or orthopedic conditions, such as a bone fracture or ankle sprain.
Swollen ankles can also indicate a potentially severe condition, such as congestive heart failure, deep vein thrombosis, and liver failure. Since ankle swelling can indicate a life-threatening condition, you should see a doctor promptly and talk to your doctor about your symptoms.
Causes of swollen ankles and some of the best treatment options:
Injury to the foot or ankle:
- People with a foot or ankle injury may experience inflammation in that area, making it appear swollen.
- One of the most common foot injuries is a sprained ankle.
- The American Orthopedic Foot and Ankle Society recommends the following home treatment for a sprained ankle:
- wear an ankle brace
- apply ice to a thin piece of cloth for up to 20 minutes
- application of a compression envelope
- elevate the foot above the waist
- Bacterial infections of the skin are called cellulitis. People with diabetes are particularly susceptible to this type of infection.
- Cellulite can cause a range of symptoms, including redness, warm skin, and swelling that spreads quickly. In rare cases, cellulite can be life-threatening without treatment.
- People with cellulitis need to take antibiotics. It is essential to tell a doctor if the swelling does not decrease or gets worse after a few days of treatment.
Side effect of drugs:
- Some medications can cause ankle swelling as a side effect. These drugs include:
- birth control pills and others containing estrogen
- testosterone pills
- calcium channel blockers for high blood pressure
- People who suspect that their ankles are swollen as a side effect of the medication may want to talk to their doctor.
- A doctor may prescribe diuretic medication or suggest methods to reduce the swelling if it is uncomfortable.
Chronic venous insufficiency:
- The most common type of edema is chronic venous insufficiency (CVI). CVI is a condition that affects the valves in the veins of the legs.
- These valves generally ensure that blood flows to the heart. In CVI, however, the valves malfunction and allow some blood to flow back and collect in the legs and ankles.
- Although CVI doesn't have serious complications, it can be painful and uncomfortable. It can also lead to noticeable changes in the skin.
- A doctor can help a person with a CVI develop a personalized treatment plan.
- Some treatment options include:
- keeping the legs elevated to improve blood circulation
- wearing compression stockings to reduce swelling
- taking medications, such as aspirin
- undergoing radiofrequency ablation, which uses heat to close the affected vein
- Sometimes a blood clot, or thrombosis, occurs in one of the veins of the arm or leg. It is called deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and requires urgent medical attention.
- DVT blocks the flow of blood to the heart, causing it to build up in the affected limb.
- Sometimes the body can compensate for the blockage by gradually diverting blood to nearby small veins. Over time, these veins grow larger and can drain blood from the limb.
- If these veins are not raised, the limb may remain swollen. Persistent pain and swelling after DVT is called post-thrombotic syndrome.
- People who are having DVT should consider:
- elevate the affected limb
- wear compression stockings to promote blood circulation
- take blood thinners or blood thinners
- undergo a stent procedure, in which a surgeon inserts a tube called a stent into the vein to keep it open
- During pregnancy, the body produces more blood and bodily fluids to support the development of the fetus.
- Swelling is a common side effect of pregnancy, particularly in the third trimester. swelling can affect the ankles, feet, legs, face, and hands.
- Slight swelling is normal and usually harmless. However, sudden swelling of the hands and face could be a sign of a life-threatening condition called preeclampsia.
- Women who experience mild swelling during pregnancy can get relief from home remedies such as:
- eating foods high in potassium
- reduce salt intake
- avoid caffeine
- wear comfortable shoes
- wear support stockings
- avoiding standing for long periods of time
- elevate feet at rest
- apply cold compresses
- wear loose clothing
- limit time outdoors in hot weather
- rest in a swimming pool
- Preeclampsia is a life-threatening condition that can occur in the second or third trimester of pregnancy, or up to 6 weeks after giving birth.
- It is characterized by dangerous blood pressure and proteins in urine. It can cause a variety of symptoms, including headaches, vision changes, weight gain, and edema.
- Preeclampsia that happens during pregnancy may also affect the unborn baby.
- It requires urgent medical treatment. Treatment may include drugs to prevent seizures and lower blood pressure.
- Childbirth is the most effective treatment, although some women may experience worsening symptoms before they recover.
- Lymphedema is a type of swelling that affects the soft tissues of the arms or legs, including the ankles. This is due to a buildup of a fluid called lymph. This is mainly made up of white blood cells, which help fight infection.
- Lymphedema occurs when there is a blockage or other damage to the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system is a network of tissues and organs that help rid the body of infection and maintain fluid balance.
- Lymphedema may be caused by infections, cancers, and surgical removal of lymph nodes. Certain inherited conditions can also cause lymphedema.
- Damage to the lymphatic system is irreversible, so treatment is aimed at reducing swelling and preventing other symptoms.
- Potential treatments include:
- wearing compression garments and bandages
- increased heart and respiratory rate through exercise
- get a gentle massage from a therapist trained in the treatment of lymphedema
- Heart failure occurs when the heart can no longer pump blood as efficiently as it should. There are three different types of heart failure: left, right, and congestive heart failure.
- In the right and congestive heart failure, there is reduced blood flow out of the heart, which causes blood to flow back up through the veins. This can cause fluid to build up in tissues, including the legs and ankles.
- Heart failure also affects the kidneys, reducing their capacity to eliminate salt and water from the body. This further contributes to edema.
- Although there is no cure for heart failure, there are many treatment options.
- A doctor may prescribe diuretics and suggest monitoring and reducing fluid intake. These two treatments can help reduce swelling in your ankles and legs.
Chronic kidney disease:
- Chronic kidney disease refers to permanent kidney damage, which can get worse over time.
- A person may not have any symptoms until they are in the later stages of the disease called kidney disease or end-stage renal disease (ESRD).
- During ESRD, the kidneys have a hard time removing waste and excess fluid from the body. This may result in a variety of symptoms, including swelling of the ankles.
- The following lifestyle factors can also assist in maintaining renal function for as long as possible:
- reduce salt and fat in the diet
- maintain a healthy weight
- maintain healthy blood pressure
- Minimum 30 minutes of exercises are needed every day
- stop smoking
- limit alcohol
- control blood sugar levels
- A healthy liver produces a protein called albumin. Albumin prevents fluid from escaping blood vessels and surrounding tissue.
- Very low levels of albumin due to liver disease can cause fluid to build up in the legs, ankles, and abdomen.
- A doctor can prescribe medications and offer advice on certain lifestyle factors that might help prevent or slow further damage to the liver. Examples include:
- exercise regularly
- eat healthy food
- limit salt intake
- avoid alcohol
- Hypothyroidism can affect a person's muscles and joints in many ways, causing aches, pain, stiffness, and swelling.
- If a person suffers from hypothyroidism or hypothyroidism, it means that their thyroid gland is producing too little hormone.
- A 2017 study suggests there may be a link between thyroid disorders and rheumatoid arthritis, which can also cause painful swelling in the joints.
- A doctor may perform a blood test to check a person's thyroid hormone levels and treatment is by taking synthetic thyroid hormones.
To help diagnose the cause of the swelling, your physician may order one or more of the following tests:
If your swelling is associated with a lifestyle habit or minor injury, your physician will probably recommend home treatments. If your swelling is the result of an underlying health condition, your physician will first try to treat that specific condition.
The swelling can be reduced with prescription medications, such as diuretics. However, these medications can cause side effects and are usually only used if home remedies don't work.
- blood tests, including blood count, kidney and liver function studies, and electrolytes to assess various organs
- X-rays to view bones and other tissues
- Ultrasound to look at organs, blood vessels, and tissues
- electrocardiogram to assess heart function
Treatment for swollen feet and ankles depends on the underlying causes. For many people, raising feet above the heart or getting up regularly during the day is all needed to do to reduce or eliminate swelling. However, for many other people, treatment for the underlying cause of the swelling may include antibiotics for infections, a splint or wrap for a sprain, taking appropriate medications for Congestive heart failure (CHF) or gout.
Urgent and urgent treatment is uncommon for the swelling of the foot or ankle itself but occurs for certain underlying causes where swelling of the feet and ankle or localized swelling is an important symptom and at times the primary symptom. Examples include preeclampsia during pregnancy, exacerbations of heart failure, liver failure, kidney failure, foot and ankle fractures, etc.
When to visit a Doctor?
A sore throat caused by a viral infection usually improves on its own within two to seven days. Still, some causes of sore throat need to be treated.
You should consult the physician as soon as possible if:
You should call for an emergency immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms along with swelling of the feet, legs, and ankles:
- you have cardiac or renal disease and have swelling
- you have liver disease and swelling of the legs
- swollen areas are red and are warm to the touch
- your body temperature is higher than normal
- You are pregnant with sudden or serious swelling
- you have tried home remedies but they did not work
- your swelling gets worse
- pain, pressure, or tightness in the chest region
- feeling dizzy or faint
- difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
One of the best home remedies for swollen ankles, feet, and toes is to elevate the swollen end slightly above the level of the heart. This is easily done by having the person lie face-up on a bed or sofa and then place pillows under the heels so that the feet and ankles are higher than the person's chest.
Sitting in an airplane seat or an office chair can cause lower extremity swelling. Periodic movements of the leg muscles by extension and contraction by simple occasional walking will help. Some doctors also recommend wearing a support hose or compression stockings.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Swollen ankles and swollen feet are common and are generally no problem, especially if you are standing or walking a lot. But feet and ankles that remain swollen or are accompanied by other symptoms can signal a serious health problem, including Complications of pregnancy, Injury to the foot or ankle.
A swollen foot can be caused by blockage of blood vessels, lymphatic blockage, or trauma from injury. Other causes of swelling in the foot include skin infections such as cellulitis or arthritis of the ankle, which can also be the cause of a swollen ankle.
You can make small changes in your daily life to help reduce swelling:
- Take a short walk every hour
- Daily consume 8 - 10 glasses of water
- Drinking less actually promotes swelling
Swelling of the feet, legs, and ankles is also known as peripheral edema, which refers to an accumulation of fluid in these parts of the body. Fluid buildup is usually not painful unless it is due to injury. Swelling is often more noticeable in lower areas of the body due to gravity.
The extra water in fruits can reduce swelling in the feet by removing extra water. Other vegetables, such as cucumber and asparagus, are natural products that remove water from your body. Drinking plenty of water will also help your foot and ankle move with less swelling.