If you’ve been standing for long periods of time or are older, it’s not uncommon for you to experience ankle swelling . But how do you know if swelling in the ankle is a sign of something serious or just a minor problem that you can take care of at home? Or what is the difference between edema caused by heart disease and swelling caused by a sprain? Read on to find out what causes ankle swelling and sometimes pain, and what to do about it.
Common causes of ankle swelling
Some causes of ankle swelling are quite common and may depend on your lifestyle. Other causes may be more traumatic or serious. The swelling may look and feel different depending on the cause.
For example, if you have edema, which is the accumulation of fluid in the tissues of the body, only swelling will appear in your ankle. If you press your finger against an edematous spot and then lift your finger, the indentation will remain there for a few seconds before the skin recovers. However, swelling from injuries such as a sprain does not have this few seconds delay.
Some of the most common causes of ankle swelling include:
- Standing for long periods of time: Leg movement usually promotes blood circulation, but standing for too long can cause blood to flow in your legs more slowly than usual.
- Sitting without moving your legs for long periods of time: This can happen if you sit at your desk for too long; It applies to those who watch TV for hours, drive for a long time or travel by train. If you sit still for a long time or cross your legs while sitting, blood flow may slow down and edema may occur.
- Too much salt in your meals: Consuming too much salt can cause edema in your ankles.
- Sprains, strains, and fractures: If you injure your ankle and have a sprain, strain, or broken bone, you’ll likely find that your ankle swells quickly. This swelling is your body’s reaction to injury.
- Pregnancy: Pregnant women complain of edema in many parts of their body, and this also applies to ankle swelling.
- Preeclampsia: Pregnant women are at risk of developing preeclampsia, a condition that causes high blood pressure and can also cause organ damage and death if not diagnosed and treated quickly. Ankle swelling is a symptom of preeclampsia.
- Lymphedema: Lymph is a colorless fluid that circulates throughout your body in the lymphatic system. If your lymph nodes are blocked or damaged, lymph can become trapped. People with cancer are at risk of developing lymphedema. The location of the blocked or damaged lymph node determines where fluid will accumulate and cause swelling. If the lymph nodes in your leg become blocked, this can cause ankle swelling.
- Heart disease: If your heart can’t pump blood effectively, blood can pool in the lowest part of your body, in your feet and legs, and cause swelling in your ankles.
- Kidney disease: Kidneys that don’t work properly may not be able to help your body get rid of excess waste or excess fluid, which can then build up and cause swelling in your feet and legs.
- Liver disease: Liver disease affects your entire body. Albumin is a protein made in the liver. If your albumin levels are too low, blood will travel through the vessels into the surrounding tissues, causing edema.
- Vascular insufficiency: After blood circulates to the rest of your body, your veins return blood to your heart. If the veins are damaged, they cannot push blood back to the heart and swelling may occur.
- Blood clots: A blood clot in your leg can slow blood flow to your feet and ankles, causing swelling.
- Medication side effects: Some medications, especially those for high blood pressure, can cause ankle swelling as a side effect.
When to go to the doctor for ankle swelling?
When the cause is minor or temporary, ankle swelling can usually be treated at home, but there are some conditions that need to be treated by a doctor. In these cases, swelling in the ankle can be a sign of a serious illness.
If ankle pain and/or swelling is accompanied by shortness of breath or chest pain , you may need to seek emergency medical attention. Because it can be a signof serious heart disease or heart failure . If your ankle is swollen after a trauma such as a fall or motor vehicle accident, it is recommended that you see a doctor as soon as possible to rule out a fracture or other serious injury.
It is also important to see a doctor in the following cases:
- If you have a history of heart disease
- If you have a history of kidney disease
- If you are pregnant or breastfeeding
- If the swelling came on suddenly
- If the swelling is accompanied by pain
- if you have a high fever
How does ankle swelling go away?
If you haven’t seriously injured your ankle, or you have reason to believe the swelling has a serious cause, you may want to try some home remedies before seeing your doctor, including:
- Lift your legs: Elevate your legs with a pillow or footrest while in bed or sitting comfortably.
- Move your legs: If you are standing or sitting for long periods of time, move your legs as much as possible to help return blood to your heart.
- Wear compression stockings or support stockings: The pressure from these stockings or braces helps increase blood flow in your legs.
- Eat healthy meals that are low in salt: Use salt in moderation, as excess sodium (i.e. salt) can cause edema.
- Avoid wearing tight clothing: Body stockings should fit snugly to your legs, not too tight. In this case, it would be wise to consult your doctor and get a recommendation for compression stockings. Apart from socks, you should avoid wearing things that tighten your body too much.
Which doctor should I go to for ankle swelling?
The first doctor you should go to for ankle swelling is your family doctor. After examining you, your family doctor may refer you to a cardiologist or nephrologist. If you are pregnant, she may want you to see your obstetrician. For more serious cases, he will ask you to go to the emergency room.