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Swollen ankles – 7 common causes

Swollen ankles can be uncomfortable and unsightly

The usual reasons for swollen ankles are pretty run-of-the-mill and can range from standing too long to excessive heat and anything in between. The body reacts by retaining fluid in the lower legs, ankles and feet. This is known as oedema and can be simply and easily treated by resting with your legs and feet propped up.

There are however many other reasons for ankle swelling that may need a different approach. Here are 7 common causes and ways to treat them.

7 common causes and treatments:

1. Foot or ankle injury

Bruising and swelling can be simply treated by resting with the foot elevated.  A compression bandage or an ice pack applied to the area can also help to reduce swelling.  If you use ice, be sure to have cloth between your skin and the ice pack as it may result in damage to your skin.  Ice should be applied to the swelling in bursts of 20-minute intervals. Seek medical advice if the selling does not go down or symptoms become worse.

2. Infection

Typically as a result of a bite or cut, may result in swelling. Diabetics have a higher chance of infection as the pain sensation in their nerves is reduced when they have an injury.  A slow diagnosis of the wound may also result in infection.  If you suspect an infection then again seek medical advice.

3. Lymphoedemia

The accumulation of lymphatic fluid. This may occur if the lymphatic system is compromised by a blockage, or if lymph nodes have been removed, resulting in fluid not being able to drain away. Exercises can help to improve circulation thereby reducing swelling in the legs and feet.

4. Varicose veins

If blood cannot circulate freely around the body and is restricted in any way, this may reduce in pooling and possible swelling in the feet and ankles.  Swollen ankles are often seen in older people who sit with their legs down for long periods of time.

5. Blood clots

Blood clots or deep vein thrombosis (DVT) in the leg can be painful and often result in swelling in the calf. However, a DVT can be difficult to identify as symptoms can be diverse but it is a very serious condition and can be life threatening. Immobility, smoking, dehydration, infection and use of some medications can all result in developing a DVT.

6. Heart or kidney problems

If swollen ankles are combined with tiredness or breathlessness while exercising, lying down or waking struggling to breathe, this could be a result of a kidney or heart condition. Medical advice should be sought as soon as possible and tests undertaken.

7. Some medication

Certain medicines may lead to an accumulation of fluid as they can affect the normal function of the kidneys. These can be medication taken to lower blood pressure such as calcium channel blockers and steroids. If you are taking these medicines and you have resulting ankle swelling then you must refer to your doctor.

What should I do if ankle swelling is persistent?

As ankle pain and swelling may be the result of many conditions we would recommend you get advice from your GP. Scans, blood tests and x-rays are all things that can be carried out to help with an assessment.

You may also be advised to exercise, lose weight, undertake physiotherapy or be prescribed medication.

There are many articles to help you exercise and eat more healthily in the Silversurfers diet and exercise section.

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