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February 2, 2010

Ankle Swelling Causes and Symptoms

Filed under: Medical Conditions — Tags: — Doctor @ 3:18 pm

“My feet are killing me!”  Why does it seem that when our feet or ankles hurt, our entire day is ruined?  In fact, foot and ankle problems profoundly affect our general health and sense of well-being.  And because so much stress is placed on the tiny bones and network of muscles, tendons, and tissues in our ankles, injury is common. 

Many times our ankles will swell for simple, easily explained reasons.  If you have just ridden for several hours in the car or on an airplane, you may find your feet and ankles are swollen.  In this case, there is no medical problem. Next time you travel, simply try to move about more frequently and elevate your legs if possible.  The problem should not last for more than 48 hours. But sometimes, ankle swelling can mean something more Serious.

It’s time to see your doctor if you have ankle swelling and:

Joint pain / Redness and warmth in the joint

These could be the warning signs of arthritis, an inflammation of the cartilage and lining of the joints. Because the foot and ankle region has so many joints (33 to be exact), it is particularly vulnerable to arthritis. And remember, people over 50 are at higher risk. Don’t put off seeing your doctor.  Although arthritis cannot be cured, it can be treated; but if left unattended, the disease can become disabling.

  • Take a prescription or non-prescription drug
  • Consult a doctor on possible side effects or reactions to any drugs you are taking.
  • A recent injury to your ankle
  • Pain or tenderness
  • Bleeding or bruising
  • You can’t put weight on your ankle
  • Numbness, tingling or paralysis in your foot
  • No pulse in your foot

It is possible you have fractured a bone in your ankle or upper foot. As you age, your bones become thinner and more brittle. Even a slight injury can break one of the small bones around the ankle joint. Don’t delay seeing a doctor, especially if you are experiencing numbness, tingling or loss of pulse in your foot.  If you break a bone, setting it becomes more difficult after several hours.

Pain and a persistent itch in the affected area Distended veins in your ankles

You may not be experiencing an actual problem with your ankles, but rather a condition called varicose veins. This occurs when veins, usually in the legs, become swollen and twisted. They will appear larger and much bluer than normal. There are various causes of the condition, but few cures besides surgery.

  • Pain in the ankle, calf or thigh which does not go away with rest.
  • Tenderness and redness in the leg/foot area
  • Pain when walking, raising your leg or flexing your foot
  • Fever
  • Rapid heartbeat

Sometimes after a long period of bed rest due to surgery or illness, blood pools in your veins, especially in the legs. If a clot forms within the veins of the lower legs and restricts blood flow, you may develop deep-vein thrombosis. Being overweight, smoking and taking estrogen increase the risk of this condition. You can help prevent it by giving up cigarettes, especially if you are taking estrogen; losing any extra pounds; and staying as active as possible even if confined to your bed.

  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, especially when lying down
  • Fatigue or weakness
  • A cough that is worse when you are lying down
  • Wheezing
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • Low blood pressure
  • Swollen neck veins
  • Enlarged liver

These symptoms could mean you have developed a heart complication, called congestive heart failure, as a result of another disease or illness. High blood pressure, heart attacks, emphysema, or various infections can cause the heart to stop pumping as strongly as it should. Blood backs up into other organs, especially the lungs and liver, and these symptoms appear.

  • Moderate to severe pain following an ankle injury
  • Redness or bruising
  • Difficulty moving ankle
  • Difficulty putting weight on injured foot

You may have one of the most common injuries to the ankle: a simple sprain. This means you’ve stretched or torn your ligaments, the strong tissues attached to your bones. A sprain can happen any time the joint is stressed, usually if weight is placed on it at an awkward or unnatural angle. Sprains can range from mild to severe, and the pain can be slight to intense. If you find the discomfort is still quite strong, even after a couple of days, you should see a doctor or physical therapist.

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