Common Causes Of Foot Leg And Ankle Swelling
There are many potential causes of foot, leg, and ankle swelling. In most cases, swelling occurs as a result of certain lifestyle factors, such as:
- Being overweight. Excess body mass can decrease blood circulation, causing fluid to build up in the feet, legs, and ankles.
- Standing or sitting for long periods. When the muscles are inactive, they cant pump body fluids back up toward the heart. The retention of water and blood can cause swelling in the legs.
Foot, leg, and ankle swelling can also occur while taking particular medications, such as:
- some antidepressants, including tricyclics and monoamine oxidase inhibitors
- nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs , including ibuprofen and aspirin
These types of medications can lead to water retention, causing swelling in the legs.
Make sure to talk to your doctor if you suspect that your medication is causing swelling in your lower extremities. Dont stop taking your medication until you speak with your doctor.
Other possible causes for foot, leg, and ankle swelling include certain medical conditions or body changes, such as:
Whats The Best Way To Treat Leg Swelling
There are several ways to treat leg swelling. The first thing your doctor may try are diuretics, or water pills. This may not be the best treatment particularly if the swelling is not due to too much volume.
Often, using counter pressure, or wearing compression stockings, to help push fluid out of the legs is the most effective treatment, says Dr. Bartholomew.
Another option, used to treat lymphedema, is to use a technique called complete decongestive therapy that involves using massage to push out fluid, along with exercises and a low-compression wrap. This is also known as manual lymph drainage.
Some people walk with a limp due to obesity or arthritis, for example, so their calf muscle is not able to push up fluid when they walk. These patients may be sent to physical therapy to help build up muscle strength and help with their walking.
Some people with mild swelling might decide to not treat it. For example, an elderly person who lives alone and struggles to put on a stiff compression stocking might decide its not worth the frustration. Special devices known as donners are available and can help them overcome this problem.
If its not bothering them, we agree but will ask them to come back if it gets worse, says Dr. Bartholomew. But if they say the swelling is so bad that they cannot get shoes on, we will tell them they really need to wear the stockings.
Dealing With Vascular Disease
The first step in dealing with swollen ankles is to determine the cause of the swelling because there are many potential causes of edema in the lower leg.
Your doctor will begin with a conversation about the swelling, and this conversation will cover:
- Medical history – treatment for cancer, kidney disease, and other conditions can be a factor in the cause of your swollen ankles.
- Current medication.
- Magnetic resonance imaging
Testing for vascular disease is noninvasive and uses duplex ultrasound techniques that combine traditional and Doppler ultrasound to give a picture of narrowing in the blood vessels and blood flow.
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Why Is My One Foot/one Ankle/one Leg Swollen
Swelling in legs and feet can say a lot about your overall health not just the health of feet and legs! There are several different reasons for swelling in legs and feet and sometimes this swelling affects one leg while other times it affects both. Are your legs swollen? Your feet? Your toes? Is it more noticeable at any one time of day?
Swelling in one foot or leg only
When swelling is happening in only one leg, the following are possible reasons for this:
1. Injury: A leg/foot/toe is often swollen if an injury has occured. This can be due to sprains, strains, fractures or tendon tears or ruptures. A lot of times, if an injury is the cause of swelling, this is something you would know about and remember an incident. However, in some cases an injury may have occured which didnt seem like much of a big deal at the time yet some damage to bone or ligaments may have occured. It is important to treat injuries quickly, or the recovery time can be much longer.
3. Infection: Infections can develop following a break in the skin that allows the natural bacteria of the skin to sneak under the surface. However, not all infections require a break in the skin. Swelling from infections is related to the inflammatory process that your body undergoes in efforts to fight off the infection. Redness, pain and sometimes drainage through an open lesion are other signs of infection.
Treating Swelling And Oedema
Treatment for swelling or oedema that does not go away on its own depends on the cause.
It may include lifestyle changes, such as losing weight or going on a low-salt diet.
Content supplied by the NHS and adapted for Ireland by the HSE
Page last reviewed: 25 March 2021 Next review due: 25 March 2024
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It Could Be A Sign Of A Blood Clot
One of the most alarming causes of swelling around the ankle is a blood clot, says Daniel Paull, M.D., founder and CEO of Easy Orthopedics.
If you have swelling on one side that continues to rise up your leg, you need to get it checked out, Dr. Paull says. In some cases, blood clots can move into the lungs and cause a potentially life-threatening pulmonary embolism . If you notice other signs of a blood clotlike pain, shortness of breath, feeling lightheaded, red or discolored skin, and warmth in the areain addition to your swelling, head to the emergency room ASAP.
Or You Could Be Dealing With Arthritis
Arthritis, which includes a number of specific diseases, refers to a condition in which joints become swollen, painful, stiff, and difficult to move. Incredibly common among older adults, it can affect joints all over the body, including the ankles. When I get an X-ray back and see that someone has bad ankle arthritis, it can certainly explain any swelling in the area, Dr. Weinfeld says, adding that inflammation related to arthritis causes the joint to swell.
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What To Do Before Starting Exercises To Get Rid Of Swollen Ankles
Before starting any exercises to get rid of swollen ankles or legs, its essential to check with your older adults doctor, find the underlying cause, and get their approval to exercise the area.
Moving fluid out of the legs and into the center of the body to be eliminated could put extra stress on their body, especially for people with heart or kidney conditions.
For example, it might be dangerous to reduce swelling in the legs with exercise if that makes a heart condition worse.
The goal is to safely improve overall health and comfort.
What Are The Most Common Causes Of Leg Edema
By far, the most common cause of leg edema is chronic venous insufficiency, but there are some other causes that are critical to rule out.
Chronic venous insufficiency
This is the cause in about 70% of older adults with leg edema. To understand chronic venous insufficiency , we first need to cover how veins work.
Veins are the blood vessels that return blood to the heart so that it can be pumped to the lungs and get oxygenated. Veins dont have muscles in their linings like arteries do instead, they rely on a system of valves to keep blood from flowing backwards. Over time, these valves become less effective, and blood can hang around in the veins longer than it needs to a phenomenon called venous insufficiency.
When venous insufficiency becomes chronic, this can cause varicose veins and/or edema, due to there being extra fluid in the veins. Venous insufficiency can also end up causing phlebitis , ulceration of the skin and even sometimes cellulitis .
CVI is common, affecting an estimated 7 million people worldwide and causing 3 million to develop venous ulcers, the most common type of leg ulcers. The cost of venous ulcers to the US healthcare system is estimated at 2 to 3 billion dollars a year.
Risk factors for CVI include:
- Lower extremity trauma
- Prior venous thrombosis
Congestive Heart Failure
Congestive heart failure is the most common cause of generalized edema , and a major cause of edema of the legs.
Medication-related leg edema
- Antihypertensive drugs
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What Can Cause One Swollen Ankle Without Pain
Posted November 17, 2022
Swelling in the ankle is a common problem that can be caused by many things, including injury, infection, or even medication. While it is not usually accompanied by pain, there are times when the swelling can be quite severe and very painful. Here are some possible causes of ankle swelling without pain and treatment options.
Swollen Ankle With No Pain Due To Inactivity
Muscular activity pumps the blood out of the legs toward the heart. Extended periods of inactivity can cause blood pooling in the lower legs, causing fluid leakage into the soft tissues and painless ankle swelling.
People who are tied to desk jobs may also develop painless swollen ankles, also known as peripheral edema. It is essential to take breaks in between and walk for 5 to 10 minutes to reduce ankle swelling associated with inactivity.
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Characteristics Of Foot Deformities Affecting The Entire Foot Structure
Foot deformities can also be more widespread, affecting the entire foot structure.
- Clubfoot: With a clubfoot, the muscles on one side of the foot are shorter than the other, causing the foot to turn sharply inward. This forces the person to walk on the outside of the foot. A clubfoot deformity must be treated when the child is still an infant, to prevent permanent deformity.
- Flat feet : A flat foot has no arch at all. A flat foot is the most common structural deformity of the foot. It can be a congenital or acquired condition. Many people who carry very heavy weights or become obese can suffer from a flat foot from the pressure placed upon the arches. Injury to the posterior tibial tendon of the foot can also cause arches to fall and a flat foot condition to develop.
You Have High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure tends to be the result of kidney insufficiency, Dr. Petkov says. The kidneys cant help the body excrete extra fluid, and the fluid tends to accumulate mainly in the lower extremities. Over time, this can lead to venous insufficiencythe pathological process in which the vein valves become increasingly incompetent. If you have high blood pressure, you should be seeing a doctor for management, anyway be sure to bring up the ankle swelling. A different medication or better control over your blood pressure may help.
Certain types of uncontrolled heart disease can make ankles swell as well. When your heart isnt working well, it cant pump blood back to the heart from the extremities as efficiently, and it can pool around the ankles. If you have swollen ankles and cant figure out why, its worth a trip to the doctor.
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Ankle Pain Without Clear Injury
Without clear trauma or an obvious indication as to why youre in pain, it can be difficult to figure out what youre dealing with and how to best treat it. A foot and ankle specialist can help pinpoint your cause of pain, but heres a look at some of the reasons why you may be dealing with ankle pain without a clear source of injury:
Arthritis Arthritis is one of the most common forms of ankle pain without the presence of clear and obvious trauma. Arthritis can also develop in a few different forms. For example, rheumatoid arthritis is a condition in which a persons immune system ends up accidentally damaging certain joints, and the ankle joint can be a common target. This can lead to pain, stiffness and swelling in your ankles. Theres also osteoarthritis, which is caused by the gradual degeneration of cartilage that helps to facilitate comfortable joint movement. Pain and stiffness in the ankle joint are common indicators of ankle arthritis.
Gout Gout is a condition that can affect your foot and ankle. It is typically brought on by an unhealthy diet that leads to the onset of uric acid buildup in the joints. This acid can crystallize and and then cause soft tissue to inflame when movement occurs. Eating a healthier diet and managing your weight can oftentimes help with gout-related ankle pain.
How Does Edema Happen
We notice edema when our shoes are too tight, or we get marks on our ankles from our socks. But whats really going on inside the body?
Edema happens when fluid moves outside of blood vessels and into whats called the interstitial spaces of the body. These spaces are also sometimes called the extra-vascular space , and is basically the moist space between cells, organs, and body parts.
Although you make think of blood vessels as being waterproof, physically they are more like a semi-permeable membrane, made of blood vessel cells that usually stay close together, and its normal for small quantities of fluid to pass back and forth.
If more fluid than usual passes out of the blood vessels, and this happens in the legs or near the surface of the body, it looks like a swollen or puffy area under the skin.
Fluid can move into the interstitial spaces and cause edema for a few different reasons. The most common causes are
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How Leg Swelling Is Treated
As I noted above: most of the time, leg swelling in an older adult is caused by chronic venous insufficiency , an issue with the leg veins not doing an adequate job to return blood to the heart.
What to know BEFORE starting a water pill for leg or ankle swelling
You might think that a diuretic will help, and they certainly are often prescribed for this purpose. However, research has shown that they often dont help much, probably because they dont really address the underlying issue, which is weak valves in the veins and local fluid overload.
Furthermore, diuretics in older adults can easily cause side effects like dehydration low blood pressure, low potassium levels, and constipation. They also increase urination, which can cause or worsen urinary continence issues.
How to treat chronic venous insufficiency in aging adults
So before starting a water pill, be sure to ask your doctor about the cause of your leg swelling and consider trying these strategies first:
Other treatment options for chronic venous insufficiency
Again, the goal of treatment is to manage symptoms and prevent other problems, like ulcers and discomfort. Most older adults can treat their leg swelling with some of the strategies described above and maintain their usual activities and quality of life.
Treatment of Leg Edema from Other Causes
Simple Home Exercises For Swollen Legs And Ankles
Famous Physical Therapists Bob Schrupp and Brad Heineck are physical therapists who demonstrate and explain how to do 3 simple home exercises that relieve swelling in legs and ankles.
As with any exercise, its always best to start slowly and increase over time to prevent injuries or discomfort.
Exercise 1: Ankle pumpsLie down and elevate feet. Moving only the feet, point toes up toward the head and then point toes down away from head.
Go back and forth and aim for 30 repetitions, 3 times a day.
Its best to do this exercise while lying down, but it can also be done while seated. To make them a little more effective while seated, use a stool to elevate the feet.
Another senior-friendly alternative is to tap the toes like tapping along to a song. It might even be fun to play some toe-tapping music to make it more fun.
Exercise 2: Butt squeezes While sitting or lying down, tighten the glutes as if trying to pick up a quarter thats between the butt cheeks
Go slowly and try to hold the squeeze for a few seconds, then release and relax for a few seconds before the next squeeze.
While doing this exercise, make sure your older adult doesnt hold their breath. They should breathe slowly and deeply.
Aim for 10 of these squeezes, 3 times a day.
Exercise 3: Single knee to chest While lying down, bring one knee up to the chest and then return the leg to the flat position. Keep the other leg either flat or bent with the foot on the bed to take pressure off the back.
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Treating Foot Leg And Ankle Swelling At Home
There are several treatments you can try at home if your feet, legs, and ankles regularly swell up. These remedies can help relieve swelling when it occurs:
- Elevate your legs whenever youre lying down. The legs should be raised so theyre above your heart. You may want to place a pillow under your legs to make it more comfortable.
- Stay active and focus on stretching and moving the legs.
- Reduce your salt intake, which can decrease the amount of fluid that may build up in your legs.
- Avoid wearing garters and other types of restrictive clothing around your thighs.
- Maintain a healthy body weight.