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Other Names:
Swelling of the ankles, Swelling of the feet, Swelling of the legs, Ankle swelling; Foot swelling; Leg swelling; Edema - peripheral, Peripheral edema

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Edema or swelling is accumulation of excess fluid in the tissues.

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  • Generalized Edema - This condition is also known as anasarca. It involves the enlargement of organs, skin, abdomen or other structures of the body caused by excessive buildup of fluid. This accumulation can lead to a rapid increase in weight over a short period of time. This type of edema may be present in chronic and progressive illnesses.

  • Localized or Peripheral Edema - In this condition the swelling is localized or limited to a specific part of the body e.g. arm, ankle, feet, face, scrotum, breast or joint.

  • Pitting Edema - In this type of edema, an indentation or pit is left in the skin if you press your thumb or finger against a swollen area and quickly remove it. This indentation forms due to displacement of the fluid in the underlying tissues. The pit fills slowly and disappears.

  • Non-pitting Edema - In this type of edema, there is no pitting or indentation in the skin when you press a finger against a swollen area and quickly remove it.

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Possible Causes

  • Malnutrition
  • Pregnancy
  • Burns
  • Excessive salt intake
  • Hypo-albuminemia
  • Sunburn
  • Sunstroke
  • Insect bites and stings
  • Lymphedema
  • Arthritis
  • Bursitis
  • Bruising or contusion of a body part due to blunt injury
  • Tendinitis
  • Tooth abscess
  • Cellulitis
  • Thrombophlebitis
  • Deep vein thrombosis
  • Anaphylactic shock
  • Allergic reaction
  • Infiltration of the I/V site due to displaced intravenous (I/V) needle
  • Inflammation of salivary glands
  • Elephantiasis (filariasis)
  • Androgen use
  • Anabolic steroid abuse
  • Some antihypertensive medication
  • Corticosteroids such as prednisone
  • Estrogens
  • Calcium channel blockers
  • Nephrotic syndrome
  • Acute glomerulonephritis
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Thyroid disease
  • Heart failure
  • Liver failure from cirrhosis
  • Accumulation of fluid in the abdomen (ascites).
  • Surgery

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What You Can Do

  • Contact the emergency medical services at once if you feel short of breath and/or if you have chest pains, especially if it feels like pressure or tightness.

  • Seek advice from your physician and take the prescribed treatment to treat the underlying cause of edema.

  • Diuretics or water pills may be prescribed by your physician to eliminate the excessive fluid from the body by increasing your urinary output. Some vegetables such as cucumbers, lettuce and celery may be helpful.

  • Under your doctor's care, you may wish to take horse chestnut which has produced significant improvement in leg edema, pain, and sensation of heaviness and as effective as wearing compression stockings.

  • OPCs (Oligomeric Proanthocyanidins) are very helpful for treating edemas. Researcher have found that 600 mg of grapeseed OPCs daily for 6 months reduced edema, pain, and peculiar sensations known as paresthesiasoved the rate at which edema disappeared following sports injuries, breast cancer surgery and other forms of surgery.

  • A low-salt diet may helps to reduce ankle and foot swelling by decreasing the amount of fluid retained in the tissues.

  • Drink plenty of fluids and keep yourself cool in hot weather.
  • With your doctor's approval, you may take Sweet Clover combined with bioflavonoids such as oxerutin. Germany's Commission E has authorized use of sweet clover extract for symptoms of venous insufficiency, a condition closely related to varicose veins and for treatment of phlebitis and hemorrhoids. Sweet clover contains coumarins, substances related to the prescription blood-thinner warfarin. Drugs that combine coumarins and bioflavonoids have been used to treat venous insufficiency, elephantiasis, hemorrhoids and various forms of peripheral edema.

  • While lying down, elevate your legs by placing 2 or 3 pillows under them.

  • If your work requires you to be sedentary, get up from your chair and move around frequently.

  • Avoid wearing tight clothing that might put pressure and constrict the blood vessels in the upper legs.

  • Exercise regularly and stretch your legs to improve circulation and work back the fluid into the veins and lymphatic channels.

  • Elastic pressure bandages or support stockings help reduce ankle swelling.

  • Watch your weight.

  • Avoid alcohol if liver disease is causing the problem.

  • Consult your physician if:
    • You have decreased urine output.
    • You have a fever.
    • You suspect or you know you have liver disease.
    • Ift feels warm or red or painful when you touch the swollen area.
    • You are pregnant and experience swelling.
    • There is an open sore
    • The swelling persists despite treatment.

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Edema - Peripheral