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Ankle Pain and Swelling

Ankle Pain and Swelling

Ankle pain and swelling can be caused by various medical conditions that can range from an infection through an open wound, an early symptom of diabetes, to water-retention. Let's understand the causes for the same.
Rutuja Jathar
Last Updated: Apr 23, 2018
R.I.C.E for Pain...
Well, not the edible kind. We are talking of Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation, the four necessary steps to relieve pain and swelling in the ankles. They work best in cases of injury to the ligaments or joints of the lower limbs and help in quick recovery.
Ankle pain is a common problem faced by people of varying age groups. The most common cause of swollen ankles, accompanied with pain, can be a sprain, an injury caused to the ligament that connects bones with each other, as a result of abnormal pressure exerted at an unnatural angle on the foot.
The ankle ligaments are fragile and tend to tear when the foot is twisted beyond the boundaries of normal human endurance. There can also be other, more serious, reasons for swollen and painful ankles such as arthritis or kidney disease. Water-retention is another cause for swollen ankles and feet.

Pain and swelling in the ankles, usually lasts for a few days and takes about 2 to 3 weeks to completely heal. It also happens that the injured ankle remains weak, and susceptible to other injuries. However, there are other reasons, besides a tear in the ligament that cause swelling and pain in the ankles.
  • Trauma: A sudden blow or a traumatic injury caused to the ankle due to fracture, sprain, hairline crack around the ankle joint, ruptured blood vessels, can cause pain and significant amount of swelling. Trauma causes the body to increase blood circulation to the affected area, to accelerate the healing process, causing immediate swelling.
  • Peripheral Edema: This occurs due to the accumulation of fluids in the lower extremities of the body. This can happen to people who spend long hours either standing or sitting, as gravity pulls the blood and fluids in the body towards the lower limbs. Primarily, a condition caused by aging and lack of physical exercise, peripheral edema can also happen to alcoholics, people with heart disease or hypertensive constitutions. The most common symptom of this disease is swelling of the ankle region and pain in the lower legs.
  • Ankle Arthritis: It is a form of osteoarthritis in which the cartilage between the joints wears out, over time, as people reach middle age, and the increased friction between bones causes pain and swelling. People already suffering with diseases like rheumatic arthritis often suffer from ankle arthritis as they grow older. Multiple injuries to the ankle ligaments can also cause ankle arthritis in people.
  • Gout: Gout is a medical condition arising from the excessive deposition of uric acid crystals, in the ankle region. Uric acid is a byproduct of the digestive system and transports waste outside the body in form of urine and excrement. People suffering with gout have abnormal levels of uric acid crystals in various joints of the body. When accumulated in the ankle region, they can lead to ankle pain and swelling. Gout commonly affects the bones at the end of the big toe.
  • Vascular Obstruction: Common causes of vascular obstruction in the legs are blood clots, causing ankle pain and swelling. They may also occur due to a host of causes such as, blunt force trauma, deep vein thrombosis or high levels of fat deposits in the arteries. If the initial symptoms are neglected, the swelling can spread throughout the leg and create complications.
  • Ankle Infection: An infection can also cause swelling of the ankles, accompanied by sharp bouts of pain. Infections of the soft tissues of the foot are called cellulitis. If an ankle infection is neglected , it may turn septic and cause further pain and swelling. Ankle infections can be treated with proper medications, but complicated cases may even require surgery.
  • Pre-eclampsia: It is a serious condition affecting pregnant women, and is fatal in about 2% of cases. Although hypertension and elevated blood pressure are the primary symptoms of this condition, swelling of the limbs, particularly the hands and feet, should be immediately reported to a physician.
  • Congestive heart failure: One of the primary symptoms of heart failure is the swelling of ankles and the feet in general. This is accompanied by other important symptoms such as pulmonary edema, coughing and shortness of breath.
  • Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome: It is a painful condition caused by the compression of the tibial nerve in the feet. Common symptoms are swelling and pain, accompanied by a tingling or burning sensation.
  • Clutton's joints: This is a relatively painless condition, affecting persons born with congenital syphilis. There is swelling in the knees and ankles for up to a year, before it fades away on its own.
  • Insect bites: Bee stings result in immediate swelling and excruciating pain, other insects such as wasps and even spiders have potent venom, capable of causing pain and swelling in the bitten areas.
  • Personal habits: We all know how ill-fitting shoes can hurt and, if worn for a long duration, are sure to cause swelling and pain due to the constriction of blood flow to the feet. Also, a diet rich in sodium (junk and fried foods) can cause swelling and pain the lower limbs.

There are several home remedies for this problem.
  • Resting the affected foot is the best thing that a person can do. Provide good support to the ankle, and do not move it unnecessarily. To get rid of ankle swelling, keep the leg in an elevated position, especially while sleeping.
  • Try ice therapy, apply an icepack on the swelling for 10-15 minutes every half hour. Continue this process for at least 2 days.
  • There are other home treatment options available such as, applying hot and cold vinegar packs to the affected joints, eating 2 tablespoons of lecithin seeds for 2 weeks (especially during pregnancy), and a diet rich in sources of Vitamin E, such as sweet potatoes and almonds, however, treatment depends on the nature and cause of the pain and swelling.
If home treatments prove ineffective and the swelling still persists, visit your nearest healthcare provider, and get a full diagnosis of the ailment. The healthcare provider will examine the ankle, get an x-ray if necessary, and prescribe appropriate medications to accelerate recovery. Following the instructions of the doctor, like mild exercises, healthy diet and the prescribed medications, will certainly prove to be a great help in the recovery process.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for professional medical advice.