Swelling of the ankles is a very common problem and usually not a cause of concern, unless, the swelling persists for longer periods and is accompanied by other symptoms, such as, appearance of blisters and sores, pain, headaches, fatigue, chest pain, nausea and vomiting.
Though most of the cases of swollen ankles are harmless and resolve on their own, others, following a more regular pattern may indicate the presence of more serious diseases that may need immediate medical attention. For example, localized edema of the ankles, feet and lower legs may indicate the presence of heart disease, obstruction of the venous system and even liver or kidney failure. It is important to identify the cause of swollen ankles for effective treatment and to prevent further complications.
Top 10 Causes of Swollen Ankles
A foot or ankle injury is one of the most common causes of swelling in the ankles, legs and feet. It may occur due to a simple case of spraining which results from stretched ligaments, or the more serious stress fracture which results from small cracks or fractures in the bone.
Swollen ankles may also result due to the accumulation of lymphatic fluid in the tissues of the ankle. Surgical removal of lymph nodes or a problem with the lymph vessels often leads to retention of the fluid due to an obstruction in the flow of lymph. Lymphedema is commonly seen in cancer patients and is one of the most common side-effects of radiation therapy.
Some degree of swelling in the ankles and feet is quite normal during pregnancy, but excessive swelling accompanied by other symptoms such as, headache, abdominal pain, nausea, infrequent urinations and a general feeling of unwell, can indicate the presence of preeclampsia, triggered by the presence of protein in the urine and high blood pressure.
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An infection in the ankle joint or the soft tissue surrounding the ankle may also lead to inflammation and swelling in the affected area.
Ankle arthritis may also lead to considerable pain and swelling in the ankles. Usually, a person suffering from rheumatoid arthritis is more susceptible towards developing ankle arthritis. However, previous injuries to the ankle joint may also escalate to ankle arthritis.
Ankles may also swell as a result of gouty arthritis. Gout is a medical condition characterized by elevated levels of uric acid in the blood and its deposition in the joints and surrounding tissues.
Venous insufficiency refers to the medical condition where the blood leaks back through the weakened or damaged one-way valves of the veins, towards the lower body parts, instead of being circulated upwards towards the heart. The leaked blood accumulates in the soft tissues of the ankles, feet and lower legs and causes considerable swelling in these parts.
The blood clots present in the veins of the legs obstruct the flow of blood towards the heart leading to its accumulation in the ankles and feet. Swelling of the ankles represents an early symptom of the disease and should be treated immediately. When left untreated, the clots may even travel to the heart and lungs and prove to be fatal.
Old Age and Obesity
The extra weight of an obese person puts undue pressure on his/her ankles which often leads to swollen ankles and knee pain. In older people, swelling of the ankles is usually an accumulated effect of gravity over the period of years.
Side Effect of Medications
Swelling of the ankles may also appear as a side-effect of certain drugs and medicines. The medication containing Steroids, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), calcium channel blockers and certain hormones are notorious for causing swollen ankles. Antidepressants and diabetes medication also causes swelling of the ankles.
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