Swollen ankles

Swollen ankles develop as a result of a build up of fluid in that area. This fluid builds up in there and the lower legs which cause swelling around those areas.

This may not seem that serious but if left untreated it can lead to lead to more serious problems such as ulcers, infections and varicose veins.

Swollen ankles can be the indicator of an underlying condition such as heart disease, kidney failure or liver disease.

Fluid leaks from blood vessels within the legs and ankles into the tissues where it pools in those areas. This is often known as oedema.

Causes of swollen ankles

This is caused by a whole range of things which include:

  • High blood pressure
  • High salt intake
  • Pregnancy
  • Pre Menstrual Tension (PMT
  • Hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
  • Oral contraceptives
  • Phlebitis (inflammation of a vein)
  • Allergies
  • Drug abuse (includes diuretics/laxatives)
  • Varicose veins
  • Obesity
  • Arthritis

Your ankles can swell up after a long flight or from standing up for a long period of time, especially in hot weather.

Swollen ankles can occur as a side effect of some high blood pressure medicines, for example calcium channel blockers.

Is this a serious problem?

It is more of an irritant than anything else but over time, it can put pressure on the ankles. This leads to skin abscesses, varicose veins and skin ulcers. This may not seem like something to be unduly worried about but any fluid retention needs to be investigated further as it could be the sign of something serious.

In regard to symptoms, the most obvious one is that of swelling around the ankles. But if this is the sign of an underlying disorder then it may lead to swelling in other areas of the body such as the feet and lower legs.

Other symptoms may develop which include puffy eyes, weight gain, frequent need to urinate, swollen hands/wrists and headaches. This swelling can also cause high blood pressure.

Treatment for swollen ankles

If this has been caused by high blood pressure then you will be given medication to lower this. This also means controlling it on a long term basis but your GP will be able to advise you further about this.

Your GP will also prescribe a diuretic -this is a type of medicine which helps the kidneys to flush out excess fluid such as that contained within the tissues of your ankles.

If you are already taking a high blood pressure medicine such as a calcium channel blocker then the dosage will be reduced. This is due to the fact that it may be causing the problem in the first place.

But, if this doesn’t reduce your blood pressure low enough then you will be given a diuretic which helps to do this as well as flushing away excess fluid.

There are a few ‘self-help’ steps you can take which include sitting with your feet elevated (on a footstool) which will help blood circulate easily around your body and ease any swelling. Reduce the amount of salt within your diet, drink plenty of water and increase your physical activity, e.g. walking. If your swollen ankles are a sign of something apart from high blood pressure then you will be referred for tests.

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