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Understanding swollen ankles: Causes, symptoms, and treatments

swollen ankles injury

Swollen ankles, medically known as peripheral edema, involve abnormal fluid buildup in the tissues of the lower legs. This condition can affect anyone but is more prevalent among older adults, sedentary individuals, those who stand for prolonged periods, people with obesity, and pregnant individuals. Swollen ankles can indicate underlying health issues, making it crucial to seek medical advice if you notice persistent swelling.

Common causes of swollen ankles

Several factors can contribute to the development of swollen ankles:

  • Chronic venous insufficiency: Weakened vein walls and damaged valves lead to improper blood flow, causing fluid accumulation.
  • Medications: Certain drugs, including antidepressants, calcium channel blockers, hormones, and corticosteroids, can induce edema.
  • Heart failure: A weak heart leads to blood pooling in the lower limbs, causing swelling.
  • Cirrhosis: Liver dysfunction due to severe scarring obstructs blood flow, contributing to ankle swelling.
  • Kidney disease: Impaired kidney function can prevent proper fluid regulation, leading to swelling.
  • Prolonged inactivity: Long periods of sitting or standing can cause fluids to pool in the ankles due to gravity.
  • Lymphedema: Blockages in the lymphatic system can cause fluid accumulation in the tissues.
  • Deep vein thrombosis (DVT): Blood clots in deep veins can lead to swelling, particularly in the legs.
  • Pregnancy: Increased body fluid and pressure from the growing uterus can cause swelling in the lower extremities.

Symptoms to watch for

Swollen ankles may not always be painful but can include symptoms such as skin that appears stretched or shiny, difficulty moving, and, in severe cases, reduced mobility. It’s essential to monitor any accompanying symptoms like shortness of breath or chest pain, as these could indicate more severe conditions.

Treatment and prevention

Treatment for swollen ankles depends on the underlying cause. Common approaches include reducing salt intake, using diuretics, elevating the legs, and wearing compression socks. Preventative measures involve maintaining a healthy weight, staying active, and regular medical check-ups.

If you experience persistent or worsening swelling, consult your health care provider to explore potential causes and appropriate treatments.