Swollen Ankles, Feet, Leg
The ankle is the area where your leg and the foot meet. The main bones of the ankle region are the tibia and fibula (in the leg) and talus (in the foot).
Inflammation and injuries can cause swelling in your lower extremities. Swollen ankles are common and normally not a cause for concern, particularly if you have been walking a lot or standing. It often goes away on its own. There are many reasons for a swollen ankle, however, it is usually the result of your body’s response to an infection or injury or due to fluid buildup.
Swollen ankles that persist or come with additional symptoms may be an indication of a serious medical condition. Additionally, you can have fluid retention as a result of a medically important underlying health issue. See a doctor if it does not get better in a few days; they can run tests to determine a diagnosis and treatment plan.
What Are Swollen Ankles?
The legs, ankles and feet are common sites of swelling because of gravity’s effect on the fluids in the human body. A swollen ankle or leg might have other causes besides fluid retention from gravity. Injuries and subsequent inflammation can also cause swelling and fluid retention.
A swollen ankle can cause the lower part of the leg to appear larger than normal. It could be challenging to walk due to the swelling. It might be painful, with the skin over your leg feeling stretched out and tight.
This swelling is typically temporary and not cause for concern. But you will still want to take measures to reduce swelling. This way, you can reduce any pain you are experiencing and resume your daily activities.
If parts of your lower leg remain swollen or you have other symptoms, it could signal that you have an underlying health condition. It might be easier to rule out a more serious issue if you know what’s causing your swelling.
What Are the Causes of Swollen Ankles?
Some possible causes of a swollen ankle and what you can do to reduce swelling are:
During pregnancy, some ankle and foot swelling is typical. Excessive or sudden swelling, however, might be a sign of preeclampsia, a serious condition in which protein and high blood pressure in the urine develop after the 20th week of pregnancy. Call your doctor right away if you develop severe oedema or swelling coupled with other symptoms including headaches, nausea, vomiting, vision changes, or stomach discomfort.
Ankle or Foot Injury
An injury to the ankle or foot can lead to swelling. The most common is a sprained ankle, which occurs when a misstep or an injury causes the ligaments that hold the ankle in place to be stretched beyond their normal range. To reduce the swelling from an ankle or foot injury, elevate the foot on a stool or pillow, wrap the foot or ankle with a compression bandage, and use ice packs and rest to avoid walking on the injured ankle or foot. If pain and swelling are severe or do not improve with home treatment, see your doctor.
This is a buildup of lymphatic fluid in the tissues that can occur when lymph veins are absent, have difficulties or after the excision of lymph nodes. Lymph is a protein-rich fluid that usually travels along an extensive network of capillaries and vessels. The lymph nodes, which catch and eliminate undesirable elements like germs, filter it. However, the fluid might get obstructed when there is an issue with the lymph nodes or veins. Untreated, lymph buildup can impair wound healing and lead to deformity and infection. Lymphedema is common following radiation therapy or removal of the lymph nodes in patients with cancer. See your doctor right away if you’ve had cancer treatment and are experiencing swelling.
Swelling of the feet and ankles is often an early symptom of venous insufficiency, a condition in which blood inadequately moves up the veins from the feet and legs up to the heart. Usually, the veins keep blood flowing upward with one-way valves. When these valves become weakened or damaged, the blood leaks back down the vessels and fluid is retained in the soft tissue of the lower legs, especially the feet and ankles. Chronic venous insufficiency can lead to infection, skin ulcers and skin changes. Visit your doctor if you exhibit symptoms of venous insufficiency.
Swelling in the ankles and feet can be a sign of infection. People who have diabetic neuropathy or other foot nerve issues are more likely to get foot infections If you have diabetes, it is important to inspect your feet daily for sores and blisters because nerve damage can blunt the pain sensation and foot problems can progress quickly. If you notice a blister or swollen foot that appears to be infected, contact your doctor right away.
Leg vein blood clots can prevent blood from returning to the heart from the legs and result in swelling in the feet and ankles. Blood clots can be deep (deep vein thrombosis) or superficial (occurring in the veins just below the skin).
Large leg veins may become partially or completely blocked by deep clots. These blood clots can be life-threatening if they break loose and travel to the lungs and heart. If you have swelling in one leg, along with pain, low-grade fever, and possibly a change in colour of the affected leg, call your doctor immediately. Treatment with blood thinners might be necessary.
Kidney, Liver or Heart Disease
Sometimes swelling can indicate a problem such as kidney, liver or heart disease. Ankles that swell in the evening could be a sign of retaining water and salt because of right-sided heart failure. Kidney disease can also cause ankle and foot swelling. Fluid can accumulate in the body when the kidneys are not working correctly. Albumin is a protein that the liver makes that prevents blood from spilling out of blood vessels and into the surrounding tissues. Liver illness can change how much albumin the liver produces. A lack of albumin production may cause fluid leakage. Fluid can build up in the chest and belly as well as the ankles and feet, where it tends to collect more due to gravity. If your swelling is accompanied by other symptoms, including weight gain, loss of appetite and fatigue see your doctor right away.
What is the Treatment for Swollen Ankles?
In many cases, you can treat a swollen ankle at home. Depending on the cause, home management will vary.
If your swelling is the result of fluid buildup, the following home tips might help relieve swelling:
- Take diuretics
- Wear compression stockings
- Practise the Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose
- Lie down with your legs and feet higher than your heart.
- Reduce your salt intake
Keep R.I.C.E (rest, ice, compression, elevation) in mind if you have swelling from an injury but consult with a doctor regarding how much activity your leg should get.
Swollen ankles are quite common and usually not a cause for concern. It normally gets cured on its own, however, if the swelling stays or accompanies other problems, then it is always advisable to seek medical help from an experienced orthopaedist. Timely care and help can ensure an appropriate diagnosis and treatment of your condition.
At the CK Birla Hospital, we ensure patients get holistic medical support which includes treatment in a compassionate environment. This patient-centric approach not only helps patients heal better but also ensures they are aware of the preventive measures as well. In case you need to consult an orthopaedist, reach out to us, or book a direct appointment with Dr. Debashish Chanda at the CK Birla Hospital.
When Should I Worry About My Swollen Ankles?
If one or both of your ankles are swollen and the condition worsens or does not get better after a few days of home treatment, consult a doctor.
Does Swollen Ankles Mean Heart Failure?
People with heart failure tend to retain fluid. Due to an accumulation of extra fluid, this manifests as swollen ankles and legs. You might notice that your shoes do not fit and socks appear tight or leave a prominent indent above the ankle.
Can Swollen Ankles Be Harmless?
Swollen ankles (also known as oedema) can be harmless, but might also signal a serious health condition or injury.
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