Ankle edema can happen from time to time, and it doesn’t necessarily mean you have rheumatoid arthritis. You just have to know when to treat it.
You also don’t have to live with it.
Here are seven tips to help you deal with ankle edema.
1. Track your symptoms
Track how much swelling you experience in your feet and ankles. This will help you determine if it’s just your ankles or if it’s affecting your whole body.
2. Find a treatment plan
If you have rheumatoid arthritis, your doctor may prescribe medications to help reduce the swelling. If your ankles are swollen, your doctor will also prescribe an anti-inflammatory drug called a corticosteroid to help reduce swelling.
If you have psoriatic arthritis, you may need to take a different type of medication.
In some cases, the swelling will go away on its own. But if it doesn’t, you can try lifestyle changes to help manage the swelling.
3. Try hot and cold therapy
Hot and cold therapy can help reduce ankle swelling. Make sure you don’t use hot water when you bathe. Instead, use a warm bath or a shower.
If you have rheumatoid arthritis, you can try the following hot or cold therapy to reduce ankle swelling:
- Hot bath: Heat up water to a temperature of at least 104 F for 15 minutes. This may help reduce swelling.
- Cold compress: Put a cold compress onto your leg for 20 minutes. Wrap a towel around your leg to help control swelling.
- Heat pad: Place a heat pad on your foot for about 20 minutes.
4. Heat up your joints
A hot tub or a warm shower can help with inflammation.
If you have rheumatoid arthritis, heat therapy can help reduce swelling. It can also help reduce the stiffness in your joints.
5. Wear compression stockings
Compression stockings can help reduce your ankle swelling. They work by compressing your ankle and leg.
You can buy compression stockings at most drugstores, grocery stores, or online.
6. Wear compression sleeves
Compression sleeves can help reduce your swelling. They can help prevent blood from pooling in your ankle.
You can find compression sleeves at most pharmacies.
7. Use anti-inflammatory medication
If you’re having trouble with your ankle swelling, talk to your doctor. They can prescribe anti-inflammatory medications to help reduce swelling.
Your doctor may also prescribe other medications to help treat your arthritis.
In some cases, the swelling will go away on its own. If it doesn’t, you can try lifestyle changes to help manage the swelling.
Ankle edema can also be caused by an underlying condition, such as an infection or a blood clot. In these cases, the swelling will likely go away on its own.
How can I prevent ankle edema?
There’s no way to prevent ankle edema from happening. But you can take certain precautions to help prevent it from getting worse.
To help prevent ankle edema, avoid these activities:
- Standing for long periods of time
- Exercising for long periods of time
- Heavy lifting
- Heavy weight-lifting
- Deep squatting
- Heavy weightlifting
If you already have ankle edema, try to avoid these activities:
- Sitting for long periods of time
- Standing for long periods of times
What are the symptoms of ankle edema?
You may not know you’re experiencing ankle edema. It can happen without any pain or swelling.
The symptoms of ankle edema may include:
- An increase in your ankle circumference
- Swelling in your ankles
- Weight gain in your ankles
- Red, inflamed skin in your ankles
- Feeling tired, dull, and exhausted in your ankles
- Pain in your ankles
How is ankle edema diagnosed?
Your doctor will diagnose ankle edema by performing a physical examination. They’ll look at your ankles and check for symptoms of edema.
During the physical exam, your doctor will check for:
- Swelling in your calf muscles
- Swelling in your ankle joints
- Swelling in your legs
Your doctor may be able to diagnose your ankle edema with a blood test. A blood test will help rule out other conditions that can cause swelling in your ankles.
How is ankle edema treated?
Treatment for ankle edema depends on its cause. If you have rheumatoid arthritis or another form of arthritis, your doctor may prescribe medications or anti-inflammatory drugs to help reduce swelling.
If you don’t have arthritis, your doctor may prescribe medications to help you manage your symptoms.
Your doctor may also prescribe a corticosteroid medication to reduce swelling.
If you don’t have arthritis or other conditions that cause ankle edema, lifestyle changes may help reduce your symptoms. These include:
- Staying active
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Eating a healthy diet
- Maintaining a moderate weight
- Avoiding alcohol
- Avoiding smoking
- Wearing compression stockings
If you don’t have arthritis or another condition that causes ankle edema, your doctor may recommend lifestyle changes alone.
- Wear compression stockings
- Take over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers to reduce pain
- Ice your feet and ankles
- Use a heating pad on your feet
In some cases, you may need surgery to reduce swelling.
What is the outlook for people with ankle edema?
Ankle edema is a common condition that can happen for many reasons. There’s no way to prevent it from happening.
If you already have ankle edema, it can be treated with lifestyle changes. You may need medication or surgery to reduce swelling.
Ankle edema can’t be cured, but you can manage it with lifestyle changes.
If you already have arthritis, talk to your doctor about medication or other treatments to help manage your symptoms.
When should I call my healthcare provider?
You should call your doctor if your ankle swelling gets worse or doesn’t go away. You should also call your doctor if you notice any of these symptoms:
- Redness around the ankles
- Persistent pain in your ankles
- Weakness in your ankles
- Difficulty walking
- Bruising or bleeding around your ankles
- Trouble breathing
These symptoms can be signs of a more serious condition. It’s important to get immediate medical attention if you experience these symptoms.
Key take-home points
Ankle edema is swelling in your ankles. It can be caused by swelling due to osteoarthritis or other conditions. It can also be caused by an underlying condition, such as an infection or blood clot.
Treatment depends on the cause of the swelling. If you already have ankle edema, lifestyle changes are recommended to reduce swelling.
If you want to prevent ankle edema, avoid the activities that cause it.
If you already experience ankle edema, lifestyle changes can help manage your symptoms.
If you think you have an underlying condition, talk to your doctor to discuss treatment options.
Outlook for people with ankle edema
Most people with ankle edema will be able to manage their symptoms.
If your swelling doesn’t go away with treatment, follow up with your doctor. They can also help you manage your symptoms.
The best way to prevent ankle edema is to avoid the activities that cause it.
Other ways to prevent ankle edema include:
- Wear compression stockings.
- Ice your feet and ankles.
- Take OTC pain relievers to reduce pain.
- Avoid alcohol.
- Avoid smoking.
- Wear shoes that are appropriate for your activity.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Eat a healthy diet.
- Use a heating pad on your feet.
When to call the doctor?
You should call your doctor if symptoms of ankle edema get worse or don’t go away. These symptoms may be a sign of a more serious condition, such as cancer.
It’s also important to call your doctor if you notice any of these symptoms:
- Chest pain
- Weakness in your legs
- Persistent pain
- Coughing blood
- Severe pain in your upper body
- Unusual swelling in your legs
- Loss of vision
- Pain that doesn’t improve with OTC pain relievers
These symptoms can be signs of a more serious condition, such as:
- Blood clot
- Heart attack
- Kidney disease
- Liver disease
- Heart disease
What to expect from your doctor?
Your doctor will begin by asking you questions about your medical history. They may also ask you to describe any symptoms that you’ve been experiencing.
If you don’t already have a primary care doctor, you can view doctors in your area through the United States Medical Network (USMLE).
Next, your doctor will perform a physical exam. They will check your legs, ankles, and feet for swelling. They may also ask you to describe your symptoms.
If they think you may have an underlying condition causing your ankle edema, they may order some tests. The tests will help guide your treatment.
Treatment may include:
- Using a heating pad or cold pack on your feet or ankles.
- Taking OTC pain relievers.
- Using a corticosteroid medication.
- Wearing compression stockings.
- Taking anti-inflammatory drugs.
- Surgery to correct the cause of your ankle edema.
The bottom line
Ankle edema is when swelling occurs in the ankles or feet. It’s a common condition that can happen to anyone.
It can also be a sign of an underlying condition, such as an infection or blood clot.
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