Reduce Foot And Ankle Swelling [Top 9 Causes]

by DailyHealthPost Editorial

If you’re dealing with foot and ankle swelling, it’s crucial to identify the cause before attempting any treatment. In today’s video, we look at nine causes and how to address them effectively.

Reduce Foot and Ankle Swelling | Fix 9 Causes of Foot & Ankle Swelling

The first cause is Number 9. “Trauma”.

If you’ve recently sprained or broken your ankle or foot, the swelling is your body’s normal inflammatory response to the injury. When soft tissues are damaged, the body sends extra blood and fluids to the area to remove debris and start repairing the injury, leading to swelling, redness, pain and warmth around the trauma site.

In the case of a broken bone, there is also internal bleeding that can pool in the area and cause significant swelling and bruising. The swelling helps stabilize the fracture but makes it difficult to walk or even get a shoe on.

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To treat swelling caused by acute soft tissue injuries like sprains or trauma to the ankle or foot, use the PRICE method:

“Protect” the area by avoiding walking on it if it hurts and using crutches if necessary;
“Rest” by giving your ankle a break;
“Ice” by applying a cold pack that conforms to your ankle to reduce swelling and inflammation;
“Compress” using an ACE wrap to prevent fluid buildup, but not wrapping it too tightly;
and “Elevate” by keeping your ankle elevated, preferably using a leg wedge for comfort.

Also take over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication if approved by your doctor.

However, the most important treatment is time, as depending on the severity and location of the trauma, it could take six months or more for the swelling to fully subside, and some may persist permanently due to lymphatic or vascular damage.

The next cause is Number 8. “Infection”.

If you have an infection in your foot or ankle area, such as cellulitis, swelling will likely occur because your body sends extra blood and inflammatory cells to the infected site to fight off the invading bacteria. This swelling is usually accompanied by redness, warmth, pain, and sometimes fever or chills if the infection is severe.

Treating the underlying infection with antibiotics, whether oral, topical, or intravenous, is crucial. However, don’t forget to also utilize the RICE method—rest, ice, compression, and elevation—to manage the swelling itself, as reducing swelling can help your body combat the infection more effectively.

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Infections like cellulitis can cause significant swelling and require prompt medical treatment to address this condition properly.

Moving on to Number 7, we have “Venous Insufficiency”.

varicose veins

Problems with the veins in the legs are a very common cause of swollen feet and ankles. Your venous system is responsible for carrying deoxygenated blood from your legs, extremities, and organs back to the heart. Unlike arteries that use the pumping force of the heart, your veins rely on the movement of muscles and physical motion to push blood flow back towards the heart.

Chronic venous insufficiency (CVI) occurs when the one-way valves in leg veins become weakened or damaged, allowing blood to flow backwards and pool in the lower legs. This pooling of blood leaks fluid into the surrounding leg tissues, causing swelling, skin discoloration, varicose veins, and sometimes leg ulcers.

The swelling is usually worse at the end of the day after being upright and improves somewhat after lying down for a while. If you have a sedentary lifestyle with little physical activity or spend long periods standing, your risk of developing vein problems increases.

Wearing compression stockings can help improve venous return from the legs and reduce swelling. Other methods include leg elevation to drain pooled blood, calf muscle exercises to promote circulation, and weight loss if overweight. In severe cases, procedures to remove, close, or bypass damaged veins may be required.

Coming up at Number 6 is, “Blood Clot In The Deep Veins”.

blood clots

One major cause of chronic venous insufficiency is deep vein thrombosis (DVT). A DVT or blood clot in the leg, which can sometimes form after surgery, can cause significant swelling in just that leg or foot.

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As the clot blocks normal return of blood to the heart, fluid is trapped in the leg’s tissues and causes swelling, pain, warmth and redness. While treating the clot with blood thinners or clot busters is necessary, the swelling may persist as your body develops new veins around the clot area. Some permanent swelling is common after a DVT.

It’s crucial to seek immediate medical attention if you suspect a blood clot, as it can lead to serious complications like pulmonary embolism. This means that a piece of clot breaks off and travels to the lungs where it causes a blockage in one of the pulmonary arteries. If you experience swelling in just one leg, especially with pain or discoloration, you need to get it evaluated immediately.

The next cause is Number 5. “Lymphedema”.

Lymphedema is a chronic condition that occurs when the lymph system is damaged or impaired, often due to lymph node removal, radiation treatment, injury or infection. This causes a backup of protein-rich lymph fluid that leaks into the surrounding tissues. In lymphedema, the swelling is most commonly seen in an arm or leg and may also cause a heavy, achy feeling, restricted movement, and thickening of the skin over time.

This condition is usually treated with compression garments, although they may not be enough. Specialized lymphatic massage, exercise and other therapies are often required to encourage lymph drainage. To see our recommended supplement to reduce lymphedema or leg swelling, click the link below.

Next, we have Number 4. “Medication Side Effects”.

Many common medications can cause fluid retention and swelling in your feet and ankles as a side effect. Calcium channel blockers used to treat high blood pressure are one such group of drugs that can lead to this issue.

Additionally, steroids such as prednisone, antidepressants, diabetes medications, hormone drugs like birth control pills, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can also contribute to swollen feet and ankles. This swelling happens due to the medication’s impact on your kidneys, blood vessels, or your body’s ability to regulate fluid.

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If the swelling becomes excessive or causes significant discomfort, discuss this side effect with your doctor. They may adjust the dosage or switch you to an alternative medication to alleviate the swelling in your feet and ankles.

The Number 3 cause is, “Heart Failure”.

Heart failure is a chronic condition in which your heart muscle becomes too weak or stiff to pump blood properly throughout your body. This can happen gradually over time, or suddenly after a heart attack or other serious heart problems. One common symptom is fluid buildup and swelling in your legs and ankles, typically affecting both legs rather than just one side.

When your heart’s pumping ability is impaired, it cannot efficiently pump blood back from your legs, causing fluid accumulation in your lower extremities. The swelling may be accompanied by fatigue, shortness of breath, and weight gain.

Treating the underlying heart condition is crucial to reduce leg swelling. The methods include medications like diuretics and ACE inhibitors to remove excess fluid and improve heart function, regular aerobic exercise to promote circulation, and joining a cardiac rehabilitation program. Even with treatment, you may need to wear compression stockings and elevate your legs to prevent fluid accumulation.

At Number 2 we have, “Kidney Disease”.

The kidneys play a vital role in regulating the body’s fluid balance, but when they aren’t functioning properly due to kidney disease, excess fluid accumulates and gets trapped in the body’s tissues, especially the legs and feet, leading to swollen feet and ankles.

There are two main reasons behind this swelling: firstly, with impaired kidney function, the body cannot effectively remove excess fluid, leading to its buildup in tissues; and secondly, in severe kidney disease, protein can leak out of the blood and into tissues, attracting more fluid through a process called osmosis. This swelling due to kidney failure is often accompanied by other symptoms such as fatigue, nausea, and changes in urination patterns.

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Treating the underlying kidney issue with the help of a nephrologist is crucial to address swelling. Recommended measures include following dietary restrictions for kidney disease, limiting salt, fluid, and potassium intake, frequently elevating the legs, wearing compression stockings, and taking diuretic (water pill) medication as prescribed.

And at Number 1, we have “Liver Disease”.

Both liver disease and malnutrition can contribute to swollen feet and ankles by reducing levels of important blood proteins that help keep fluid inside the blood vessels. The liver produces many of these proteins, including albumin.

Albumin helps maintain oncotic pressure, which is the force that pulls fluid back into the blood vessels from the surrounding tissues through osmosis. When albumin and other protein levels drop too low, this pressure decreases, allowing fluid to leak out of the blood vessels and accumulate in the legs and ankles due to gravity, causing edema. This leg swelling, often accompanied by abdominal swelling (ascites), is commonly seen in people with liver failure.

To manage this condition, a combination of treatments is often required. This includes addressing the underlying liver condition, adhering to a low-sodium and high-protein diet, wearing compression stockings, elevating the legs, and taking prescribed diuretics or fluid pills as recommended by healthcare providers.

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