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Treating Swollen Ankles

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Causes of swollen ankles and the various treatment options available.

Swollen ankles occur when excess water is retained in the spaces between body cells. While edema commonly affects the feet, ankles and lower legs, it may also occur in other parts of the body. 

Swelling of the ankles is normal during pregnancy, but excessive or sudden swelling may be a sign of preeclampsia, a serious condition. 

If you experience severe swelling or swelling accompanied by other symptoms such as infrequent urination, headaches, abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting, or vision changes, call your doctor immediately. 

Swelling may also be caused by a serious underlying disease of the kidney, heart, liver or blood vessels. Some other causes of swelling are: ankle injuries, drug abuse, sodium retention, venous insufficiency, diuretics abuse, and neuromuscular disorders. 

Home Remedies for Ankle Swelling 

Elevate your ankle while relaxing at home to ease the swelling. Place an ice pack on the ankle to reduce pain and inflammation. You may use a cold gel pack or a bag of frozen peas or green beans. Remember to wrap the cold pack in a cloth so that it doesn’t directly contact your skin. 

Try alternating hot and cold vinegar wraps to soothe swelling in ankles. First, heat equal amounts of vinegar and water. Now soak a towel in the liquid, squeeze it out, and wrap it around your ankle.  

Cucumber is another effective cure for swollen ankles. Place a slice of cucumber on your ankle and cover it with a cloth or bandage. The cucumber slice will absorb the water and speed up recovery. 

Edema Foods & Diet 

Eating Vitamin E-rich food is considered good for women suffering from swelling of feet during pregnancy. Some Vitamin E-rich foods are almond oil, sunflower seeds, spinach, sweet potato, and wheat germs. 

You should also avoid eating some foods such as white flour foods, processed foods, sugary foods and drinks, coffee, black tea, and alcohol.

You should limit your salt intake to no more than 2100 milligrams per day to reduce fluid retention and swelling. 

Compression Stockings for Edema

Wear compression stockings while standing for extended hours to reduce water retention. These stockings stimulate proper circulation and reduce the swelling associated with edema. 

Compression stockings are made of elastic and can stretch over the legs to provide graduated pressure which is at its highest at the ankles.

Compression stockings work by constricting distended veins in the ankles and preventing the pooling of blood and fluids in the extracellular spaces. They help the lymphatic system drive water from the tissue matrix.

These stockings are available with different pressures. A pair of compression stockings providing 8 – 20 mmHg of pressure can be obtained without a prescription from the local pharmacy. These are called Support Compression Stockings.

Above this, a prescription is advised since a health provider would need to accurately determine the Ankle Brachial Index (ABI) to recommend the right compression stockings to treat a patient’s edema.

The ABI is essential since the ankle also houses vital arteries which supply the foot. Compression stockings are not recommended for those with ABI values less than 1.0.

Similarly, compression stockings are not recommended for edema patients who also suffer from peripheral obstructive arterial disease, peripheral neuropathy, congestive heart failure, septic phlebitis, or oozing dermatitis.

Custom Compression Stockings are available for those whose edemas are too big or whose legs are disfigured from extensive swelling.

Compression stockings can reach different heights up the upper leg. There are knee-length compression stockings which are designated AD; thigh-high compression stockings are labeled AG while pantyhose compression stockings are AT.

Exercises for Edema 

Get some exercise to promote good circulation inside the body. Sit down on the carpet and stretch your leg in the front you, rotate your ankle 10 times in a clockwise direction and then in a counterclockwise direction. This reduces swelling and improves blood circulation. 

Care should be taken while exercising for edema. In some people, exercise actually causes peripheral (and rarely, pulmonary) edema. However, only strenuous exercise would cause the swelling of the legs, arms, and face.

When exercising to reduce edema, you should remove any item worn that can reduce blood flow to your limbs. Therefore, rings should be avoided and watchbands should be worn slack.

Furthermore, try and flex your fingers during exercises. Take a break and massage your arms and ankles to restore blood flow.

Aerobic exercises are the best kind of exercise to use in treating edema. This is because they task the heart, lungs, and muscles. They encourage the heart to speed up blood circulation, the lungs to oxygenate the body, and the muscles to pump fluids out of interstitial spaces.

When starting out, begin with simple exercises for short durations. Keep a consistent schedule and build up your stamina then gently make the exercise session longer and more strenuous.

Exercise and compression stockings make a good combination for treating peripheral edemas. They usually work for all but the most severe cases without the intervention of drugs. 

Medications for Swollen Ankles

Over the counter diuretics increase the amount of fluid removed by kidneys and this can help to get rid of water retention. This effectively reduces the buildup of fluid from the tissues in your ankles. 

Diuretics are the most used medications for treating edema. They are generally effective in relieving swollen ankles.

There are 3 main classes of diuretics used in the treatment of edema. These are loop diuretics, thiazide diuretics, and potassium-sparing diuretics.

Loop diuretics provide the most dramatic result of the lot. They increase urine output tremendously and provide fast relief. The most popular drug in this class is Lasix or Furosemide.

Loop diuretics act on the sodium/potassium/chloride ions transporter in the ascending limb of the loop of Henle in the kidney. Because they inhibit sodium reabsorption through a transporter shared with potassium, they also inhibit potassium reabsorption. These diuretics also prevent the reabsorption of calcium and magnesium.

Therefore, loop diuretics can cause low levels of essential minerals in the body. For this reason, it may be necessary to take mineral supplements, especially potassium supplements, when placed on loop diuretics.

However, they are more effective than other diuretics for certain groups of edema patients. Loop diuretics are recommended especially for edema patients who also suffer from renal impairment, liver cirrhosis, heart failure, and nephrotic syndrome.

Thiazide diuretics also promote potassium loss along with sodium but spare calcium ions. They, however, promote the accumulation of uric acid.

Therefore, thiazides are not recommended for edema patients with gout and hyperuricemia. They are also not recommended in pregnancy, and for diabetic patients.

Potassium-sparing diuretics are so named because they do not cause potassium loss along with sodium. Their sites of action are different from the transporters inhibited by loop and thiazide diuretics.

Instead, potassium-sparing diuretics either inhibit sodium channels in the epithelium of the kidney or block the aldosterone released by the renin-angiotensin system, which contributes significantly to water retention in the body.

If your ankle swelling is due to calcium channel blockers, reducing the dose may help. If your blood pressure is not fully controlled, your doctor may prescribe you a diuretic to help lower your blood pressure and flush out excess fluid. 

Try a Natural Supplement - Capisette

Capisette is an effective alternative to prescription diuretics. It contains dandelion extract, horse chestnut, gingko biloba, and buchu extracts.It replenishes the body with lost nutrients and helps in reducing edema.

Capisette is a natural fluid retention remedy. It contains dandelion extract, horse chestnut, gingko biloba, and buchu extracts. It replenishes the body with lost nutrients and helps in reducing edema.

Next Article: Edema Diet: Foods to Avoid for Edema