What is Ankle Edema (Ankle Swelling)?

Ankle Edema is a medical condition in which there is swelling of the ankles due to collection of excessive fluid in tissues of ankle and foot. This is quite a normal condition and usually occurs after an individual has walked or taken a hike for a long period of time. The degree of ankle swelling depends on the amount of fluid that has accumulated in the tissues and the ankle swelling may spread to other parts of the foot also. When standing straight, the blood from the legs has to travel against the gravitational force to the heart. This is facilitated by the valves and contractions of muscles in the legs. Hence if there is any problem with these structures then the flow of blood from the leg to the heart is hampered and fluid starts to collect in the tissues of the foot and ankle resulting in ankle edema or ankle swelling. There are two forms of ankle edema known as pitting edema and nonpitting edema. Pitting edema is a form of ankle edema in which on palpation of the affected site the skin goes inside and a depression is formed. A non-pitting edema is a type of ankle edema in which there is no such depression formed upon deep palpation. Majority of instances of ankle edema or ankle swelling resolve by just elevating the legs for some time, especially while sleeping so that the blood flow to and from the leg gets normalized. Compression stockings are also of help to treat Ankle Edema or Ankle Swelling conservatively. In some instances, Ankle Edema is caused due to an underlying medical condition for which definite treatment and physician evaluation is required. In this article, we will discuss about such conditions which cause Ankle Edema or Ankle Swelling.

What is Ankle Edema (Ankle Swelling)?

What Can Cause Ankle Edema or Ankle Swelling?

Medical Conditions that Cause Bilateral Ankle Edema or Ankle Swelling in Both Legs:

Cardiac Conditions That Can Cause Bilateral Ankle Edema or Ankle Swelling: Cardiac problem is by far one of the most common problem which results in bilateral ankle edema or ankle swelling. This is because of decreased ability of the heart to pump in blood to various parts of the body resulting in accumulation of fluid in the ankles and foot causing ankle edema or ankle swelling. The most common heart condition causing bilateral ankle edema or ankle swelling is congestive heart failure. Another cardiac condition which tends to cause ankle edema is pericardial effusion. This is a medical condition in which there is accumulation of fluid around the heart, resulting in malfunctioning of the heart.

Renal Conditions as a Cause for Bilateral Ankle Edema or Ankle Swelling of Both Legs: Medical conditions in which the kidneys get affected also tend to cause ankle edema or ankle swelling as a result of excessive protein loss. Ankle Edema or ankle swelling due to a renal condition is more prevalent in the morning hours. Thus if an individual notices swelling of the ankles when getting up first thing in the morning then there might be a renal issue going on. Apart from the ankles, there may be swelling also observed on the face and other parts of the body.

Bilateral Ankle Edema or Ankle Swelling of Both Legs Caused Due To Liver Dysfunction: Liver dysfunction is also a potential cause of ankle edema or ankle swelling. This is because in liver dysfunction there is severe depletion of protein levels in the blood. Apart from swelling in the ankle, there is also accumulation of fluid in the abdominal region as well.

Ankle Edema or Ankle Swelling Caused Due To Obstruction of Vena Cava: If there is some form of obstruction of the flow of blood in the inferior part of the vena cava then this may also tend to cause ankle edema or ankle swelling.

Low Thyroid Levels: Severe depletion of thyroid levels can also lead to ankle edema or ankle swelling. Along with the ankles, there is also visible swelling of the face and hands. Some of the other symptoms of Hypothyroidism are excessive fatigue, dry scaly skin, and a hoarse voice.

Allergic Reaction: Certain allergic reactions result in development of Ankle Edema. Apart from this, there will be swelling across the body along with eruptions of rashes and shortness of breath in severe cases of allergic reactions.

Anemia: Ankle edema or ankle swelling in bilateral legs can also be caused due to anemia or extremely low blood count. Another classic symptom of anemia is excessive fatigue.

Bilateral Ankle Edema or Ankle Swelling of Both Feet Caused Due To Medication Use: Calcium channel blockers are known to cause Ankle Edema and have it on their side effect profile. Some of the medications in this category are felodipine and amlodipine. Some other medications which cause Ankle Edema are minoxidil, pioglitazone, and rosiglitazone.

Ankle Edema

Medical Conditions Causing Ankle Edema Unilaterally or Ankle Swelling in One Leg Only:

Unilateral Ankle Edema or Ankle Swelling in One Leg Caused Due To Lymph Flow Blockage: Lymph is a fluid which is carried by the lymphatic vessels. If the flow of this lymph is obstructed due to any reason then it results in development of Ankle Edema or Ankle Swelling. This obstruction may be due to conditions like filariasis or a malignant growth.

Unilateral Ankle Edema or Ankle Swelling in One Leg Caused Due To Fracture or Sprain of Ankle Joint: Swelling of the ankle often is also caused due to any injury or a slip and fall resulting in fracture or sprain of the ankle thus causing Ankle Edema.

Cellulitis: This is a medical condition in which the tissues beneath the skin get infected. This results in swelling and erythema over the ankle and foot.

Blood Clots: A form of blood clot called as Venous Thrombosis results in blood getting collected at a place due to the clot. This is usually caused due to lack of motion of the affected limb usually after a major surgery or a paralytic attack where the individual becomes bedridden. The formation of clots results in blockage of blood thus causing Ankle Edema.

Varicose Veins: This is a medical condition in which the veins in the legs become dilated and hence are not able to perform their function in a normal fashion resulting in reduced blood flow to the heart and thus development of Ankle Edema or Swelling in the Ankle. In some instances, there may also be development of ulcers.

Genetic Diseases: Certain genetic diseases may also cause Ankle Edema. One such disease is called as Milroy Disease in which there is a problem with the lymphatic system and results in Ankle Edema.

Natural Ways to Get Rid of Ankle Edema or Ankle Swelling

Natural Ways to Get Rid of Ankle Edema or Ankle Swelling

Below mentioned are some of the natural ways to get rid of Ankle Edema or Ankle Swelling:

Wraps and Splints Helps Reduce Ankle Edema or Ankle Swelling Naturally: In case if the Ankle Edema or Ankle Swelling is caused due to a fracture or sprain of the ankle then the best way to treat it is by immobilizing the affected ankle using a wrap or a splint and allowing it to heal. The ankle at times is also casted if there is suspicion of a displaced fracture so that the bone is maintained in alignment. Pain medications are also prescribed during this time to calm down any symptoms of pain.

Magnesium Supplements to Help Treat Ankle Edema or Ankle Swelling Naturally: One of the reasons for ankle edema is also inadequate levels of magnesium in the body. This can be corrected by taking in magnesium supplements. The best dosage is around 300 mg once or twice a day but a consultation with a physician is a must before starting any supplements.

Yoga To Help Get Rid of Ankle Edema or Ankle Swelling Naturally: Yoga is by far the safest and most effective way of treating many medical conditions, including Ankle Edema or Ankle Swelling. Try and incorporate yoga in your daily life and you will see positive results in no time but again a consultation with your treating physician is a must before starting any form of exercise including yoga. If the physician allows you to start yoga then you need to find a yoga instructor who can teach you the easiest and most effective poses which you can do even at home.

Some of the yoga poses that can help treat ankle edema or ankle swelling are headstand (Shirshasana) and shoulder stand (Sarvangasana) as these poses help improve blood circulation. For those who find it difficult to do these yoga poses can simply try raising their feet and resting it on a wall.

Getting Rid of Ankle Edema or Ankle Swelling Naturally with Tonic Water: Soaking the affected leg in tonic water also helps with Ankle Edema.

Grapefruit Oil: Mix some grapefruit oil in bathing water before taking a bath. This is an extremely useful product which can help with Ankle Edema.

Salt Water Soaks: Take half a bucket of lukewarm water and add some salt in it. Immerse your affected foot in the water for 15 to 20 minutes two to three times a day. This is also quite effective in getting rid of ankle edema or ankle swelling naturally.

Cut Down on Salt Intake To Treat Ankle Edema or Ankle Swelling Naturally: Many may find relief from ankle swelling if they cut down on daily salt intake in their food.

Importance of Proper Footwear to Help Get Rid of Ankle Edema or Ankle Swelling Naturally: If you have a problem of ankle edema or ankle swelling, then it is important to choose the right footwear. Avoid wearing heavy shoes, high heeled shoes or a tight fitting shoes. Preferable to opt for something light, flat and well cushioned shoes.

Precautions with Lifting and Pushing: For people having a tendency to suffer from ankle edema or swelling of the ankle, it is advisable to avoid activities requiring heavy lifting or pushing as that can act as a trigger or worsen your ankle edema.

Keeping Legs Elevated While On Desk Job For Long Hours Can Help Get Rid of Ankle Edema or Ankle Swelling Naturally: People who have a sedentary job or computer desk job, it is advisable to keep the feet rested on a elevated stand or a stool.

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD, FFARCSI

Last Modified On: November 24, 2016

Pain Assist Inc.

Pramod Kerkar
  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

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