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Remedies for Swollen Feet & Ankles

Here are some effective remedies to reduce swelling in feet and ankles.
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Swelling in feet and ankles is common, especially among elderly people. Some of the potential causes of this condition are menstruation, obesity, pregnancy, foot injuries, and old age. 

Another cause of swollen ankles is edema, also referred to as peripheral edema. It is caused by abnormal retention of fluids in various parts of the body. Though water retention may occur anywhere in the body, the most common areas are the ankles and legs. 

RICE (rest, ice, compression and elevation) for swollen ankles and feet from an injury, is a tried and tested formula which works to effectively reduce pain and swelling. 

This swelling, also known as edema, may occur for other reasons too. The remedy to alleviate the problem depends on the cause. 

The Basics of Swelling

All forms of edema involve the interplay of 5 factors. These include hydrostatic pressure, oncotic pressure, deterioration of the blood vessels, impairment of the lymphatic system and changes in the fluid-retention property of tissues.

Hydrostatic pressure is generated by fluids while oncotic pressure is generated by proteins in the plasma. Both are usually generated in the blood vessels. However, when fluids leak out of the vessels these pressures can also be generated in tissues.

Swelling, fluid retention or edema in the feet and ankles usually begins when the walls of the blood vessels become permeable. This is usually because of deterioration of the wall.

This effect is further compounded especially when the rate blood flow in these vessels are reduced. Therefore, oncotic pressure in the vessels falls sharply as fluids leak out of the blood vessels into the interstitial spaces.

Hydrostatic pressure in the tissues, on the other hand, quickly rises as more fluids leak out of the vessels and pool in the tissues.

Ideally, the lymphatic system is responsible for moving away excess fluids from the extracellular or interstitial spaces. However, in most cases of edema, the lymphatic system does not function efficiently.

Therefore, the fluid leaked into the tissues keeps building up instead of being transported to the nearest lymph nodes.

Water retention in the tissues can also be worsened if the nature of the tissues changes too.

When hydrophilic (water-loving) compounds, such as the carbohydrate-like hyaluronan, are deposited in the tissue matrix, they increase the tissue’s affinity for water by absorbing more water and swelling up.

Alternative Remedies 

Experts have found that several flavonoids aid in reducing the swelling. These flavonoids are water-soluble pigments, which are available in foods and in supplemental form. Hydroxyethylrutoside and Coumarin are the two flavonoids that ease swelling. 

According to a study by Chang, Gan, Fu and Huang in Lymphology; Coumarin is effective in treating chronic lymphedema of the legs when the inflicted person takes 400 milligrams per day. 

Coumarin is found in lavender, dong quai, licorice, apricots, cinnamon, strawberries, cherries, and sweet clover. However, this home remedy should be used only under the direction of a health care practitioner or physician. 

Some common herbs are also used to get rid of water retention in feet and ankles. The herbs include butcher's broom, goldenrod, stinging nettle, dandelion, goose grass, horse chestnut, uva ursi, and parsley. 

According to a 1996 study done by RV Cluzan, 150 milligrams of butcher's broom taken two to three times daily is effective in reducing swelling. 

Conventional Treatment 

You may use non steroid anti inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen for swelling in feet and ankles, caused by injury.

Frequent movement also helps reduce swelling caused by water retention. You should take breaks in between and walk more frequently, and avoid sitting or standing in one place for extended hours. 

Reduce your salt intake if you have swollen feet or ankles. As per Dr. P. Ponce, you must limit your salt intake to no more than 2100 milligrams per day to reduce fluid retention and swelling. 

You may also consider wearing elastic hosiery and compression socks to reduce swelling in feet and ankles. Check with your health care practitioner to find out which type of treatment is suitable for your type of edema. 

Swollen feet and ankles can also be treated with gentle leg exercises especially if the swelling is not so extensive as to restrict movement.

By raising the swollen limb above the level of the heart for at least 10 to 15 minutes, it is possible to relieve the swelling since gravitational force helps drive the fluid towards the upper leg.

Leg exercises and placement can also be combined with leg massage. Massage, especially when performed by a trained therapist, can be used to manually drain the fluid building up in the swollen feet and ankles back into the lymphatic system.

Drink at least 64 ounces of water daily to flush out the toxins and waste that buildup with edema. If swelling is not caused by an injury, then yoga, bicycle riding and exercise are all excellent ways to encourage blood flow and reduce swelling. 

Your doctor may also prescribe medicines to reduce water retention. Diuretics, commonly referred to as water pills, help alleviate swelling caused by water retention.

Drugs

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs will not work for swollen feet and ankles caused by edema. For pedal edemas, diuretics are prescribed.

Diuretics are effective for reducing swelling of the feet and ankles. However, they should be used only after consulting with a doctor.

There are 3 main classes of diuretics. These are loop diuretics, thiazide diuretics and potassium-sparing diuretics.

Loop Diuretics

Loop diuretics are very effective and recommended for patients who cannot be given the other types of diuretics.

They are especially indicated for treating edema in patients who also have renal impairment, liver cirrhosis, heart failure or nephrotic syndrome.

Loop diuretics act on the sodium/potassium transporters found on the ascending limb of the loop of Henle of the kidney nephrons. They prevent water from being reabsorbed by preventing sodium reabsorption.

However, potassium reabsorption (and to lesser extents, the reabsorption of calcium and magnesium) are also inhibited.

To bypass this limitation, loop diuretics are often recommended to be taken along with potassium supplements. Some of them, for example Lasix K (Furosemide + Potassium), are even formulated with a potassium salt included.

Taking potassium supplements is especially recommended for patients taking both loop and thiazide diuretics.

Thiazide Diuretics

Thiazide diuretics act on the distal convoluted tubules of the nephrons. They are all chemically similar.

Thiazides produce their diuretic effect by inhibiting sodium reabsorption too. However, they do so at transporters shared by sodium and potassium. Therefore, they also inhibit potassium reabsorption although they spare calcium.

Thiazides are not recommended for pregnant women with swollen feet and ankles. They are not to be given to patients who have histories of gout or to those who are also treating diabetes.

Potassium-sparing Diuretics

Potassium-sparing diuretics do not inhibit the reabsorption of potassium in the nephrons of the kidney. This is because they do not act at the transporters shared by both sodium and potassium.

Some potassium-sparing diuretics, such as amiloride, simply inhibit sodium channels while others, such as spironolactone, block aldosterone, a corticosteroid hormone released by the renin-angiotensin system which is responsible for water retention in the kidneys.

Compression Stockings

These special footwear are especially effective for reducing swelling in the feet and ankles.

Compression stockings are supplied to provide different pressures. Those exerting pressures less than 20 mmHg are sold without prescriptions.

A pair of compression stockings usually exerts the greatest pressure at the ankles. Since the ankle is a joint linking the lower leg to the foot, fluid buildup is usually extensive there because blood flow is most constricted at that point.

Compression stockings provide graduated pressure along the lower leg so that fluid is gently removed from the feet and ankles and moved away to the lymph nodes at the groin.

Try a Natural Supplement - Capisette 

Capisette is a natural remedy for fluid retention. It contains the natural diuretic properties available in several herbs and other supplements that are helpful in addressing water retention issues.

Next Article: Leg Edema
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