Swelling: When Your Feet and Ankles Imitate Melons
Maybe it occurred after a long day of hiking or standing around at your job. Maybe you spent too many hours sitting on an airplane. Or maybe you remember an injury that started it all—and now your feet and ankles have puffed up. Your skin is stretched out and your lower limbs resemble balls or small melons rather than feet. While it can be alarming to have swelling in your feet and ankles, it doesn’t have to be a cause for panic. A little care and investigation into the source can go a long way toward protecting your body.
Swelling in your feet and ankles is a common problem called edema. It’s caused by fluids building up in the tissues there. Generally the fluids leak from tiny blood vessels called capillaries. When it’s not particularly painful, the condition is fairly harmless. It occurs frequently in older people, or if you’ve been either sitting or standing around for too long. Pregnancy and being overweight can also cause some leakage in the lower limbs. Occasionally edema can be a side effect of medications. Some vasodilators, or medicines that relax and widen blood vessels, as well as other prescription drugs that affect blood flow, can result in some foot and ankle swelling.
Sometimes, however, edema is a sign of a serious underlying condition. Traumatic injuries cause significant swelling from blood leaking from the damaged tissues. Circulatory problems like venous insufficiency and congestive heart failure mean your body has a hard time efficiently managing blood, which allows it to pool in your feet and ankles. Diseases in organs like your liver and kidneys, which help filter blood, can result in leaks. All of these problems are very serious and the swelling needs to be reduced. To effectively treat the problem, however, the underlying condition also needs to be addressed.
If your feet and ankles swell frequently, remain swollen for extended periods of time, or are extremely painful, don’t ignore it. You need to have the problem examined to determine what may be causing your discomfort and how to treat it. At NorthPointe Foot & Ankle your feet are carefully examined for injuries and other changes. The doctors may request diagnostic images to get a clearer picture of what is happening inside your body. Then they can work on ways to lower the swelling and restore your feet and ankles to normal.
Reducing an edema involves encouraging the body tissues to reabsorb the leaking fluids. Lie down and raise your feet above chest level, so your body isn’t fighting gravity to pump the fluids back toward the heart. If you have an injury, ice the area. Compression socks or wraps help keep your tissues from filling up. Sometimes changing your diet to eat less salt can help your body keep more liquids in your blood vessels and not pooling in your lower limbs, too.
If a different, serious condition is behind the problem, however, you will need to address it to truly resolve the swelling. The doctors can work with you to identify the source and manage the discomfort in your lower limbs, though you will need to work with additional specialists and your primary care physician to address the culprit.
If your feet are uncomfortably swollen or you are otherwise concerned about them, you don’t have to just accept the problem. You can take steps to relieve your discomfort and make sure that your pain isn’t related to a more serious issue. Contact NorthPointe Foot & Ankle for more information or an appointment and take care of your lowest limbs. Visit our website contact page or call (248) 545-0100 to reach us.