The term ‘edema’ means swelling due to the accumulation of excess fluid.
It is particularly common in the lower leg, ankles, and feet.
The problem of swollen feet and ankle is common among people who have to stand or walk a lot throughout the day.
But do you know that there can be various other reasons behind the pain? The cause of swelling can range from an injury to a medical condition. On one hand, extreme weather, sprain, strain, and fluid retention can be conditions which can cause swelling. On the other, pregnancy, arthritis and obesity can also lead to inflamed and swollen ankles and feet.
Let’s look at 6 causes of swollen ankles and cover some of the best treatment options.
Possible causes of swollen ankles include:
1 Chronic venous insufficiency
The most common type of edema is from chronic venous insufficiency (CVI). CVI is a condition that affects the valves in the leg veins. These valves usually make sure that blood flows toward the heart. In CVI, however, the valves malfunction and allow some of the blood to flow backward and pool in the lower legs and ankles.
Although CVI does not have severe complications, it can be painful and uncomfortable. It may also cause noticeable changes to the skin. A doctor can help a person with CVI develop a personalized treatment plan.
Examples of some treatment options include: keeping the legs raised to improve blood flow, wearing compression stockings to reduce swelling, taking medications, such as aspirin, undergoing radiofrequency ablation, which uses heat to close the affected vein.
2 Heart failure
Heart failure occurs when the heart can no longer pump blood as effectively as it should. There are three different types of heart failure: left-sided, right-sided, and congestive heart failure.
In right-sided and congestive heart failure, there is a reduction in blood flow out of the heart, causing blood to back up into the veins. This may lead to a buildup of fluid in tissues, including the legs and ankles.
Heart failure also affects the kidneys, reducing their ability to remove salt and water from the body. This further contributes to edema.
Although there is no cure for heart failure, there are many different treatment options.
A doctor may prescribe diuretic medications and suggest monitoring and reducing fluid intake. Both of these treatments can help reduce swelling in the ankles and legs.
3 Chronic kidney disease
Chronic kidney disease refers to permanent kidney damage, which can worsen over time. A person may not experience any symptoms until they are in the late stages of the disease, called kidney failure or end-stage renal disease (ESRD).
During ESRD, the kidneys struggle to remove waste and extra fluid from the body. This can lead to a range of symptoms, including swollen ankles.
The following lifestyle factors can also help maintain kidney function for as long as possible: Reducing salt and fat in the diet, maintaining a healthy weight, maintaining healthy blood pressure, exercising for at least 30 minutes per day, quitting smoking, limiting alcohol, controlling blood sugar levels.
4 Liver disease
The healthy liver produces a protein called albumin. Albumin prevents fluid from leaking out of the blood vessels and into surrounding tissues.
Very low levels of albumin due to liver disease can cause a buildup of fluid in the legs, ankles, and abdomen.
A doctor may prescribe medications and offer advice on certain lifestyle factors that could help prevent or slow further liver damage. Examples include: exercising regularly, eating a healthful diet, limiting salt intake, avoiding alcohol.
Lymphedema is a type of swelling that affects the soft tissues in the arms or legs, including the ankles. It is due to a buildup of a fluid called lymph. This is mainly composed of white blood cells, which help fight infection.
Lymphedema occurs when there is a blockage or some other damage to the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system is a network of tissues and organs that help rid the body of infection and keep fluids in balance.
Lymphedema can result from infections, cancer, and surgical removal of the lymph nodes. Some hereditary conditions can also cause lymphedema.
Damage to the lymphatic system is irreversible, so treatment aims to reduce swelling and prevent other symptoms.
Potential treatments include: wearing pressure garments and bandages, increasing heart and respiration rate through exercise, getting a gentle massage from a therapist who is trained in treating lymphedema.
6 Medication side effect
Some medications can cause the ankles to swell as a side effect. Such medications include antidepressants, birth control pills and others containing estrogen, testosterone pills, calcium channel blockers for high blood pressure, steroids.
People who suspect that their ankles are swollen as a side effect of medication may wish to talk to their doctor.
A doctor may prescribe diuretic medications or suggest methods for reducing the swelling if it is uncomfortable.
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