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Richardson Podiatry Center

Edema: Swollen Feet and Ankles

There are many different ways your body lets you know when there is a problem. The pain that rushes when you accidentally close a door on your hand is one example. Another is the popping noise you might hear if you rupture your Achilles tendon. In a similar spirit, swollen tissue can be an indication something is not right. In some cases, though, it is the swelling itself that is the problem.

We help patients for many different issues here at Richardson Podiatry Associates, including providing treatment for swollen feet and ankles from edema.

Swollen FeetEdema Symptoms, Causes, and Risk Factors

In a medical sense, edema is simply a term used to describe swollen tissue. This typically happens when excess fluid becomes trapped within body tissues. There are multiple reasons why edema can occur—pregnancy, medication, disease—but one consistent factor is that extra fluids create a puffy appearance when they accumulate.

The main symptom of edema is the observable swelling or puffiness, but skin can also appear to be stretched or shiny as well. If you press down on the affected area for a couple of seconds, the resulting dimple will remain for a little while. It is important to know the symptoms of pulmonary edema—which includes chest pain, difficulty breathing, and shortness of breath—because you need to seek immediate medical attention if they are present. Additionally, persistent pain and swelling that does not go away following extended periods of sitting in place (like during a long plane flight) might be an indication of a blood clot, which also requires prompt medical attention.

There are various causes of edema, with pregnancy being a fairly common one. The lower limb swelling often happens because there is an increase in fluid levels within the body to nourish both mother and child. With gravity being what it is, any excess fluids tend to pool in the feet and ankles.

Pregnancy may be a leading cause of swollen feet and ankles, but there are other factors that can cause and contribute to this condition, like:

  • Side effects from medication
  • Weak veins
  • Kidney damage or disease
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Cirrhosis

The swollen tissue in your feet and ankles is a sign for you to seek treatment. This will help you prevent a variety of issues, such as increased pain, difficulty walking, stiffness, and decreased blood circulation. The affected area is subjected to heightened risk of infection when proper care is not administered. Scarring and skin ulcers can also develop between layers of your tissue.

Treating and Preventing Edema

For mild cases of edema, home care can sometimes be successful and is worth trying. This entails:

  • Compression. Pregnant women are often advised to wear compression stockings for this very reason. These garments apply pressure and keep excess fluid from pooling in your tissues.
  • Elevation. Keeping a swollen foot or ankle elevated above heart level, especially while sleeping at night, can help redistribute fluids in a normal fashion. This will decrease the swelling, so be sure to elevate your foot when possible during the day and prop it up on a couple of pillows at night.
  • Massage. External pressure can move excess fluid out of the swollen area. Use firm, but not painful, strokes in the direction of your heart for optimal benefit.
  • Moving. Staying physically active improves circulation, which is necessary for moving excess fluid back up to your heart. Our office will recommend appropriate exercises for you based on your specific condition.
  • Reduced sodium intake. Salt makes your body retain fluids, so keep it to a minimum.

When home care does not prove to be sufficient, we may prescribe medication to assist your body in expelling excess fluid. This can provide temporary relief, but keep in mind that the best plan of action is to seek treatment for the underlying cause behind the swelling.

No matter if the edema causing your swollen feet and ankles comes from pregnancy, or is the result of an altogether different matter, Richardson Podiatry Associates is here for you. Contact our Richardson, TX office today by calling (972) 690-5374 or using our online form to request an appointment and we will provide the care you need.