Swollen feet and ankles are a common occurrence, especially if you have been walking or running a lot recently. It is not usually a serious concern, and will likely disappear by itself. However, it may be a serious problem if swelling is persistent and accompanied by other serious symptoms or signs. In this article we will explore the causes of swollen feet and ankles, as well as some ways to relieve the discomfort.
Causes of swollen feet and ankles
Pregnancy complications: Swollen feet and ankles are a common symptom during late pregnancy. However, if this swelling suddenly manifests without warning it can be a sign of preeclampsia. Preeclampsia occurs in the 2nd or 3rd trimester and is characterized by a rise in blood pressure and an increase in protein found in the urine. If you are pregnant, have swollen feet and ankles, and have, headache, right-sided belly pain, irritability, nausea, vomiting, or irregularities in vision, then it is advisable to consult your physician immediately.
Foot or ankle injury: Injury to the foot or ankle can cause swelling to the affected region. If you suffer an injury to your foot there are a few things that you can do to relieve the swelling. Rest the injured foot and refrain from walking on it, apply a cold item to the swollen area, wrap the foot or ankle in a bandage, and finally lie down and elevate the foot on a pillow or stool. If the swelling does not subside with time or from your home remedies, contact your physician as you may have a broken bone or a fracture.
Lymphedema: This is a chronic medical condition that occurs when there is an obstruction of the lymph vessels. The lymph vessels are responsible for draining fluid in the body tissues. When there is an obstruction it can result in swelling in the legs or arms due to a buildup of fluid. If your swelling in the feet or ankles spreads to most of your leg and is long lasting, you should contact your physician immediately. There is no cure for lymphedema, only a long-term management plan. This includes compression of the legs with bandages, lymph drainage, and physical therapy. The swelling for this condition is normally permanent but can be reduced by the aforementioned management techniques.
Venous insufficiency: This manifests when there is a blockage in the veins that obstructs the blood flow between the legs and the heart. If your swollen feet or ankles coincide with cramping in the legs, itching or tingling, pain in the legs when standing, redness on the legs or ankles, and ulcers on the legs then you may have venous insufficiency. If you experience any of these symptoms it is advisable that you contact your physician immediately, as this condition will require long-term treatment.
Infection: A foot infection can result in swollen feet and ankles. Individuals who are infected with diabetes are prone to foot infections and should therefore inspect their feet regularly for irregularities (blisters and sores). If these sores or blisters are not addressed they can quickly develop into complicated infections.
Blood clot: If a blood clot is formed in the veins of the leg it can block normal blood flow between the heart and legs, resulting in swollen feet and ankles. Accompanying symptoms for this condition include warmth, redness, and pain in the feet and legs. Blood clots can be a life threatening if they travel to either the heart or lungs. If your swollen feet or ankles are accompanied by any of the aforementioned symptoms, you should contact your physician immediately.
Heart or kidney disease: Swollen feet and ankles can sometimes be a symptom of heart or kidney disease. If your swollen feet are worse at night then it may be caused by a heart problem. Kidneys that are not functioning properly can result in a buildup of fluid in the body tissue including the feet or ankles. If your swollen feet coincide with fatigue, weight gain, or a loss of appetite then it is advisable that you contact your physician right away. Additionally, if you experience chest pain or have trouble breathing, call 911 immediately.
10 effective ways to relieve the swelling
There are a few things that you can do to relieve the discomfort of swollen feet or ankles. Below we have listed ten:
- During your busy day, make time to discontinue all activity for a short while and elevate your feet above your heart.
- Wear comfortable shoes that support your feet and are the correct size. Women should avoid high heels as they constrict blood flow and will heighten pain and swelling.
- Get a soothing foot massage from a professional or friend/partner. This will increase blood circulation and reduce swelling.
- Soak your feet in tonic water. This has been proven to be quite effective at easing discomfort and swelling.
- Opt for socks that do not have any seams. Seamless socks will not constrict the blood flow in the feet.
- Add ginger and cayenne pepper to your diet. Research has proven that these foods are beneficial to increasing blood flow.
- Maintain a low salt diet. Salt can aggravate swelling and fluid build up.
- Women should wear compression stockings that aid in relieving swelling and pain.
- Do not wear tight fitting clothing or garments.
- Participate in moderate exercise. Swimming or walking can be beneficial in reducing swelling and pain.
Swollen feet and ankles can be caused by a number of factors; generally, it is a harmless condition. However, if it is followed by other more serious symptoms, it can be an indicator of a dire medical condition. If you experience any worrisome symptoms you should contact your physician immediately.