Foot, leg, and ankle swelling is also called peripheral edema, which refers to an accumulation of fluid in these parts of the body. The accumulation of fluid normally isn’t painful, unless it’s due to injury. Swelling is often more apparent in the lower areas of the body since of gravity.
Foot, leg, and ankle swelling is most typical in older adults. The swelling can occur on both sides of the body or on just one side. One or more areas in the lower body may be affected.
While swelling in the foot, leg, and ankle typically does not posture a significant health risk, it’s crucial to understand when to see a doctor. Swelling may often indicate a more serious underlying health concern that needs to be treated immediately.
Common causes of foot, leg, and ankle swelling
There are many prospective causes of foot, leg, and ankle swelling. In most cases, swelling occurs as a result of specific lifestyle factors, such as:
- Being overweight: Excess body mass can decrease blood flow, triggering fluid to develop in the feet, legs, and ankles.
- Standing or sitting for extended periods: When the muscles are inactive, they can’t pump body fluids back up towards the heart. The retention of water and blood can cause swelling in the legs.
Foot, leg, and ankle swelling can also occur while taking certain medications, such as:
- estrogen or testosterone
- some antidepressants, consisting of tricyclics and MAO inhibitors
- nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, consisting of ibuprofen and aspirin.
These types of medications can reduce blood flow by increasing the density of the blood, triggering swelling in the legs. Ensure to talk to your doctor if you suspect that your medication is causing swelling in your lower extremities. Don’t stop taking your medication up until you talk with your doctor.
Other possible causes for foot, leg, and ankle swelling include specific medical conditions or body changes, such as:
- Natural hormone changes: Fluctuating levels of estrogen and progesterone can cause lowered flow in the legs, resulting in swelling. These changes in hormone levels might take place during pregnancy and a woman’s menstrual cycle.
- Blood clot in the leg: A blood clot is a clump of blood that’s in a solid state. When a blood clot kinds in a vein of the leg, it can hinder blood flow, resulting in swelling and discomfort.
- Injury or infection: An injury or infection affecting the foot, leg, or ankle results in increased blood circulation to the area. This presents as swelling.
- Venous insufficiency: This condition takes place when the veins are unable to pump blood effectively, triggering blood to swimming pool in the legs.
- Pericarditis: This is a long-lasting inflammation of the pericardium, which is the sac-like membrane around the heart. The condition causes breathing problems and severe, chronic swelling in the legs and ankles.
- Lymphedema: Also known as lymphatic obstruction, lymphedema causes clogs in the lymphatic system. This system is comprised of lymph nodes and capillary that help bring fluid throughout the body. A blockage in the lymphatic system causes tissues to end up being swollen with fluid, resulting in swelling in the arms and legs.
- Preeclampsia: This condition causes hypertension during pregnancy. The increase in blood pressure can lead to poor flow and swelling in the face, hands, and legs.
- Cirrhosis: This describes severe scarring of the liver, which is frequently caused by alcohol abuse or infection (hepatitis B or C). The condition can cause hypertension and bad flow in the feet, legs, and ankles.
Treating foot, leg, and ankle swelling at home
There are numerous treatments you can try at home if your feet, legs, and ankles frequently swell up. These remedies can help relieve swelling when it takes place:
- Elevate your legs whenever you’re lying down. The legs need to be raised so they’re above your heart. You may wish to place a pillow under your legs to make it more comfortable.
- Stay active and concentrate on extending and moving the legs.
- Reduce your salt intake, which can decrease the amount of fluid that may build up in your legs.
- Prevent wearing garters and other types of limiting clothes around your thighs.
- Preserve a healthy body weight.
- Wear support stockings or compression socks.
- Stand up or move around at least when every hour, specifically if you’re sitting or standing still for long periods of time.
When to see a doctor about foot, leg, and ankle swelling
While swelling in the lower extremities generally isn’t really cause for concern, it can in some cases suggest something more serious. Here are some basic guidelines that can help you recognize when swelling warrants a trip to the doctor or to the emergency clinic.
You need to set up a visit with your doctor as soon as possible if:
- you have heart or kidney disease and are experiencing swelling
- you have liver disease and are experiencing swelling in your legs
- the swollen areas are red and feel warm to the touch
- your body temperature level is greater than regular
- you are pregnant and are experiencing unexpected or severe swelling
- you have attempted home remedies, however they have not been successful
- your swelling is becoming worse.
You need to go to the medical facility instantly if you experience any of the following symptoms together with foot, leg, and ankle swelling:
- pain, pressure, or tightness in the chest area
- feeling lightheaded or faint
- problem breathing or shortness of breath.
What to expect during your visit
During your visit, your doctor will carry out a physical examination and ask you about your symptoms. Be prepared to explain:
- where you are observing the swelling
- the times of day when the swelling has the tendency to be even worse
- other symptoms you may be experiencing
- any aspects that appear to make the swelling better or even worse.
To help identify the cause of the swelling, your doctor might order one or more of the following tests:
- blood tests including blood count, kidney and liver function research studies, and electrolytes to examine the various organs
- X-rays to see the bones and other tissues
- ultrasound to analyze the organs, capillary, and tissues
- electrocardiogram to evaluate heart function.
If your swelling is related to a lifestyle routine or a minor injury, your doctor will likely recommend home treatments. If your swelling is the result of a hidden health condition, your doctor will first attempt to treat that particular condition. Swelling might be lowered with prescription medications, such as diuretics. Nevertheless, these medications can cause side effects, and are typically used only if natural home remedy aren’t working.
Preventing foot, leg, and ankle swelling
Swelling of the foot, leg, and ankle cannot always be prevented. However, there are some actions you can require to prevent it. Some excellent methods include:
- Workout frequently to preserve great flow. For adults ages 18 to 64, the World Health Organization suggests 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 minutes of high-intensity workout each week.
- Avoid sitting or standing for a very long time. Make sure you get up or walk around periodically if you sit or stand still for extended periods.
- Control your salt consumption. Adults over age 51 and those with particular health conditions should keep their salt consumption below 1,500 mg each day.