On Your Feet All Day? Remedies for Swollen Ankles and Feet
Most of us have experienced the problem of swollen ankles and feet after standing all day, eating a diet high in sodium, or because of hormonal changes. Swelling in ankles, feet, and legs can be caused by different reasons that affect the production of too much fluid in the soft tissues coming from the small blood vessels. Due to this process, sodium (salt) along with water levels in the body start to increase. Then comes a response from the kidneys causing increased blood circulation leading to further fluid leakage and more swelling of feet, ankles, and legs.
Usually, the working lymphatic system can cope with mild swelling in feet. However, sometimes the swelling of feet, ankles, and legs is too much to be reduced naturally and a person needs to use additional treatment options to reduce the amount of fluid causing their swollen legs and feet.
Different types of swelling in ankles, feet, and legs
According to WebMD, there are 2 common types of swelling in ankles, feet, and legs:
- Pitting edema – the main symptom of this type is that the swollen area will show a mark for a few minutes after you press on it with a finger. Pitting edema may happen due to a wide range of reasons from wearing a sock for the whole day to heart failure.
- Non-pitting edema is the most common type of swollen ankles, feet, and legs commonly caused by lymphedema and associated with just a small amount of swelling.
What causes swollen ankles: 10 most common reasons
If you are wondering what causes swollen feet and ankles, according to Healthline, there are the 10 most common reasons:
Injuries to the soft tissues in feet and lower legs can cause swelling that commonly affects one leg. Swollen feet and ankles caused by injuries can develop like this:
- Delayed feet swelling – builds up very slowly. You may notice the first signs only within a few hours or even days after getting injured. This delay is related to the irritation of the joint structures where the joint tries to protect itself and even can stimulate the natural healing processes. The amount of swelling in this case may vary from day to day;
- Instant ankle swelling – may be noticeable immediately after getting a physical injury. In this case, the swelling in ankles affected by injuries is caused by excessive bleeding into the joint, medically known as a hemarthrosis. In this case, the swelling of ankles, feet, and legs can be accompanied by mild bruising. This type of injury-caused swelling can be triggered by such traumas as a bone fracture or ligament tear. Seek medical assistance with this type of swollen ankle, foot, and leg.
Some disorders and illnesses
One of the most common causes of swollen ankles is as a symptom of different medical conditions. For example, the following disorders and illnesses can trigger swollen feet, ankles, and legs:
- Rheumatoid arthritis triggered by active inflammatory synovitis (this is an inflammation of the membrane lining the affected joint)
- Congestive heart failure accompanied by hypertension
- Kidney problems
- Liver disorders
This is a common disorder of the lymphatic system that may be triggered by infections, injuries, or any aggressive cancer treatment (like radiotherapy or a removal of the affected lymph nodes).
Blood clot or deep vein thrombosis (DVT)
These conditions can also be referred to the most common causes of swollen feet and ankles. This type of swelling is usually accompanied by mild-to-severe ankle pain, redness, and warmth over the swollen area. In this case, the swelling commonly happens in one leg and, if left untreated, the pain can get worse.
A side effect of certain medications
Taking some pills daily can lead to mild swelling of the legs and feet. These medications are:
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs;
- Oral contraceptives and other hormone-changing drugs;
- Tricyclic antidepressants (like Amitriptyline);
- Some diabetes medications (like Actos and Avandia);
- Calcium channel blockers used for treating high blood pressure (like Nifedipine or Amlodipine).
This condition triggered by being overweight and certain bacteria entering the body through the breakage in the skin. Hot, red, and swollen pimples caused by cellulitis commonly affect the skin on face and the lower legs.
Damaged or weak veins
If the veins can’t pump blood back from the legs or feet to the heart through the valves, you may get the severe swelling in ankles.
Long-term inactivity of legs
Staying in one position for long periods of time can cause swelling in ankles due to circulation problems. For example, you may have swollen ankles and feet after long-distance travel by plane or car.
Pregnancy has many symptoms including mild-to-severe swollen ankles and feet. Severe swelling during pregnancy can be a potentially dangerous sign of pre-eclampsia that needs an immediate medical assistance.
Other, rare causes of swelling in ankles, legs, and feet
- long-term standing or walking
- gender – according to Healthline, edema is more common in women because the female hormone progesterone can cause the fluid retention
How can swollen ankles, feet, and legs be treated?
Swollen ankle treatment can be assigned only by a health care specialists after identifying the cause of your swollen ankles and legs. You may need tests for swelling diagnostics like:
- Blood tests;
Depending on the cause of swelling, a doctor may recommend options like these for swollen feet treatment:
1) Diuretics may help reduce the swelling in ankles and feet caused by congestive heart failure
2) The swelling caused by rheumatoid arthritis can be relieved by taking certain medications
3) Swelling due to the injuries like ankle sprain can be reduced by bone resting, a surgery, or a cast
4) If your swollen ankles and feet cause pain, your health care specialist may prescribe an over-the-counter pain reliever with an anti-inflammatory effect
5) Mild swelling caused by pregnancy or non-severe injuries can go away on its own after delivering the baby or getting the sufficient rest
6) You may need to use a compression pump for returning the fluid to the blood vessels;
7) A doctor may recommend wearing special support stockings (sold at most drugstores) in the case of DVT.
Tips for reducing mild-to-moderate swollen ankles and feet
- Elevation of the affected leg may be helpful as the first-choice swollen ankle remedy. You may put your leg on a pillow to raise it above your heart while lying down
- For sprained ankle treatment, you may use an ice compress to reduce swelling (along with the treatment of Rest, Ice, Compress, Elevate – RICE)
- The increased muscle activity if the swelling was caused by the long-term inactivity
- Consider avoiding standing or sitting in one pose for long periods of time
- Try not to abuse diuretics, laxatives, and other medications for swollen ankles
- Consider avoiding wearing the tight clothes around your thighs
- While being on a long-distance trip, consider taking breaks
- Regular exercises of legs can prevent their swelling
- Losing weight may be also helpful
- Increase your water intake
- Decrease your salt intake.
Sometimes, the causes of swollen feet require a medical emergency. If the swollen ankles, feet, and legs develop rapidly and are accompanied by severe pain, warmth, redness, difficulties with breathing, and fever, visit a doctor.