Whether you have them intermittently or suffer from them permanently, swollen feet and ankles can be extremely painful. They can cause several problems if not treated properly.
Luckily, for the most part, you can self-treat at home, for example, making lifestyle changes or simply elevating your legs more.
Remember, that intermittent swelling isn’t serious. However, if the swelling doesn’t go down after a few days, if it gets worse, you start to feel a fever or you start to feel a shortness of breath seek medical attention immediately.
The NHS recommends that you should call 111 if…
- The swelling is only in one ankle, foot or leg and there’s no obvious cause, such as an injury.
- The swelling is severe or has started suddenly.
- The swollen area feels red or is hot to touch.
- Your temperature is high or you feel hot and shivery.
- You have diabetes.
Only call 999 if…
- You are struggling to breathe or have a shortness of breath.
- Your chest feels tight, heavy or painful.
- If this is the case, you could have a blood clot in your lungs, which needs immediate treatment in a hospital.
What is oedema?
Oedema is just the technical name for swelling in the legs, ankles and feet caused by excess fluid in the cavities or body tissue.
If you have swollen or puffy ankles, feet or legs or stretched, dry or red skin you might have oedema.
What causes swollen ankles?
Swollen ankles can be caused by several different things, some more serious than others and some easier to self-medicate. Here are a few of the most common reasons for oedema.
- Excessive walking or standing – If you work in retail, a salon, you’re a nurse or doctor or your occupation requires you to be on your feet for long periods, the pressure from standing or excessive walking will make your feet and leg veins swell up.
- Crossing your legs – If you cross your legs while you sit it will restrict your blood vessels, this means you’re more likely to have swollen legs and ankles.
- Sitting for too long – Too much sitting can also cause your ankles to swell. Excessive sitting restricts the blood flow from your feet back to your heart, creating puffy ankles. This is why you might get swollen ankles while travelling, especially on a plane, if you’re an office worker or your mobility is restricted.
- Being overweight – The extra pressure put on your ankles due to the extra weight will make them swell up.
- Certain medication – Certain medications such as blood pressure medications, some contraceptive pills, anti-depressants and steroids can affect your blood circulation and therefore cause ankle swelling.
- Injury – Any strains or sprains in your legs, feet or ankles can cause swelling in this part of the body.
- Pregnancy – Your ankles can also swell while you’re pregnant. However, If you have a sudden, painful swelling, you must seek help from a doctor immediately.
- Insect bites and stings – If you get stung or bitten by an insect on your feet, ankles or legs it can cause swelling. These will usually go down by themselves.
- Kidney liver or heart problems – a build-up of fluid in your ankles could be a sign of more serious ailments like kidney disease/ kidney failure, liver disease or congestive heart failure. Because of the severity of these illnesses, if you suspect that you might have one of these you must seek help immediately.
- A blood clot – Similarly if your legs are swelling due to a blood clot this can be life-threatening. Blood clots, if they break loose, can travel to your heart or lungs which could be fatal. If you have a swelling in only one leg and it’s painful, you have a low-grade fever or your leg changes colour you must seek emergency medical help immediately.
- An infection – Infections in the foot can affect people with diabetic neuropathy or other nerve problems. If you have diabetes you need to check your feet daily because the nerve damage can decrease the pain sensation. This means that you might not be able to feel pain if something is wrong and further problems and complications can occur.
- Poor circulation and high blood pressure – Having poor circulation and high blood pressure can cause swollen legs and ankles.
How can I treat swollen ankles at home?
Most swelling will go away by itself if what is causing your oedema is not serious (see above) you can easily treat swollen ankles at home or at least help ease the pain. Here are a few ideas to help reduce swelling and ease the pain of swollen ankles.
- Elevate your feet – By elevating your feet with an adjustable bed or rise and recline chair, it allows the body to pump blood around more easily, reducing swelling significantly.
- Gentle exercise – simply getting up and walking around every hour and un-crossing your legs can significantly reduce ankle swelling. Exercising encourages your blood to flow better.
- Wear wide comfortable shoes with a low heel and soft sole – Having wider shoes will help reduce pain if your feet do swell up also wearing a low heal will help blood flow through your feet. A soft sole will support your foot easier also allowing the blood to flow more efficiently.
- Wash, dry and moisturise your feet – doing this will help prevent infection. This is a good health tip for anyone to practice because it prevents infection and swollen ankles in the first place.
- Don’t stand or sit for too long – If your job requires you to sit all day remember to take hourly breaks and move around. If your job requires you to stand all day make sure you take rests.
- Don’t wear clothes, socks or shoes that are too tight – wearing tight clothing restricts blood flow and not wearing them will prevent swelling in the first place.
If your ankle, foot or leg swelling does not go down after a few days or gets worse always contact your GP.
How a rise and recline chair can help with swollen ankles
The NHS recommends that you elevate your feet to help relieve swelling. The Oak Tree High Leg Lift Motor on our Rise and Recline chairs, with one smooth action, raises the feet above the heart, allowing blood to flow more easily and reduces swelling caused by oedema.
Being seated in this position allows gravity to aid circulation of the blood in your feet back to the heart, thus reducing ankle swelling.
How an adjustable bed can help with swollen ankles
Raising your legs while your sleep has the same effect. Sleeping in a supported semi-contoured position helps your heart pump blood around your body more easily, reducing leg swelling.
Simply using a pillow to prop your feet up while you sleep will not give you the support that your knee and ankle joints need. An adjustable bed offers full comfort and support to every muscle and joint in your body.
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