The Causes and Remedies for Swollen Feet & Ankles
When your normally comfortable socks leave stretch marks on your legs, and your lounge pants feel snug around your shins and calves, it may be due to swollen legs. There can be several causes for foot, leg, and ankle swelling. Normally referred to as peripheral edema, the swelling is caused by the accumulation of fluids in those parts of the body. This buildup is usually not painful unless it follows an injury of some sort. The lower extremities are the usual suspects for peripheral edema because gravity causes the fluid to migrate that way.
Older people are more prone to swelling of the feet and legs. It can be one leg or both as several parts of the body may experience peripheral edema at the same time. It’s not always something to be concerned about, but swelling can be an indication of a more serious health risk, which is why you need to know when to visit the doctor and what you can do to manage the swelling at home.
Some Causes of Leg, Knee, and Ankle Swelling
These three main reasons account for a majority of swelling, but there are other sources.
One of the health risks that come with being morbidly overweight is that your knees and ankles are overworked and under a lot of pressure. Excess weight can also lead to poor blood circulation, which in turn leads to fluid retention.
If your job or lifestyle in general requires you to remain in one position for an extended period, for example standing and serving customers or sitting at a desk, your leg muscles are inactive and immobile. This results in poor blood circulation and fluid retention in the legs and ankles.
One of the side effects of certain medications is the retention of fluids. Steroids, hormone medications with estrogen or testosterone, certain antidepressants including Monoamine Oxidase inhibitors and Tricyclics, and even some common everyday painkillers like Aspirin and Ibuprofen can lead to swollen legs and ankles. If you suspect your medications are the cause of your swollen legs or ankles, make sure to talk to your doctor as soon as possible. Do not stop taking your medicine until you have spoken to your doctor and gotten the go-ahead from them.
Swelling Due to Changes in the Body
Sometimes certain changes in the body due to age, hormones, or other factors can also cause swollen legs and feet.
Natural Hormonal Fluctuations
Fluctuating levels of estrogen or progesterone can decrease the efficacy of circulation, leading to the retention of fluids. These hormonal changes can be caused by pregnancy, the menstrual cycle, or menopause.
A blood clot is a lump of congealed blood. Even small ones can lead to blocked veins and arteries. When the blood does not have clear passage, it will pool and collect near the blockage, creating swelling and pain.
Injury or Infection
If there is an injury or infection in a certain part of the body, white blood cells and platelets are needed to stem the flow of blood and fight the infection. This can manifest as redness and swelling in the surrounding area.
If the veins are unable to pump and transport blood with the strength needed, it can lead the blood to pool around the legs and ankles. The two main causes of Venous insufficiency are blood clots and varicose veins.
Inflammation of the pericardium for an extended time can lead to shortness of breath, breathing difficulties, and chronic swelling of the legs and ankles.
This condition is an infection or obstruction in the lymph nodes. Lymph nodes are strategically placed throughout the body to drain impurities. They are part of the body’s immune system and help stave off infections. Sometimes these infections can cause the lymph nodes to become obstructed, leading to pain and swelling in the area.
This condition only occurs during pregnancy. Preeclampsia causes the blood pressure to shoot up, which, in turn, leads to poor blood circulation and flushing and swelling of the face, hands, and legs.
Cirrhosis is the severe scarring of the liver. The usual cause is alcohol abuse or liver infections like Hepatitis B or C. This condition results in high blood pressure and swelling in the extremities.
How to Treat Swelling at Home
Here are some remedies you can try at home if the condition is not serious enough to warrant a visit to the doctor.
- To get the blood to circulate better, your legs need to be higher than your heart. When you’re lying down, place a few pillows under your legs to ensure the fluid gravitates away from the legs and towards the heart.
- Try to gradually increase your physical activity. The more you move your muscles, the better your circulation will be. Incorporate a little light yoga or a short stroll around the block.
- If your diet is sodium-rich, it can lead to the retention of fluids. Reduce how much salt you eat. Try to cook at home, using as little salt as you can. Cut out all junk food.
- Make sure you wear loose, comfortable underwear and pants that are loose and airy. Avoid garters and tight socks.
- Losing weight will also help ease up the pressure on your ankles and legs. Start with a clean diet and light exercise. You can gradually increase the intensity as you get used to it. Consistency is more important than anything else.
- Use support stockings or compression socks.
- If you have a job that requires you to sit for long periods, get up and walk around, stretch, and do some leg exercises every hour, to keep the blood flowing. Short breaks will also help increase your overall productivity.
When Should You See a Doctor
Usually, swelling of the legs should not cause any alarm bells, but sometimes it can be an indication of a serious underlying issue or major health risk. There are certain signs to look out for that warrant a visit to the doctor.
- If you suffer from a heart or kidney disease and have swollen legs.
- If you suffer from a liver disease and have swollen legs.
- The swelling has taken on a red hue and is also warm to the touch.
- You are feeling feverish, are burning up, or feeling very chilly.
- You are pregnant and the swelling is sudden and severe.
- The prescribed home remedies haven’t done the job.
- If your swelling appears to be worsening.
When swelling becomes a problem, don’t put off seeing a professional. A medical professional can assess the source of your swelling and help you find relief. Heart of Dixie Vein and Vascular Center is proud to provide specialized care for those suffering from leg and vein pain, including leg swelling. If you are ready to improve your leg swelling, contact us today.