Causes of Swollen Feet and Ankles
Peripheral edema refers to the swelling that occurs in the tissues, usually in the lower limbs, due to fluid accumulation.
This condition is commonly observed in individuals with certain underlying medical conditions or as a side effect of some medications.
Symptoms of Peripheral Edema
The main symptom of peripheral edema is the sometimes extreme enlargement of the affected area, typically in the feet, ankles, and legs. The inflammation may also extend to the hands and arms in some cases. The affected area may feel tight, heavy, or even painful. Other common symptoms include:
- Puffiness or swelling of the skin
- Skin that doesn’t spring back after being pressed
- Limited range of motion or stiffness in the affected area
- Skin discoloration, such as redness or bluish tint
Causes of Edema
Peripheral edema can result from a variety of underlying conditions or factors. Some common causes include:
- Chronic venous insufficiency: This occurs when the veins in the lower extremities do not efficiently return blood to the heart, leading to fluid buildup and swelling.
- Deep vein thrombosis (DVT): This can lead to pain and warmth in the affected limb. DVT requires immediate medical attention, as it can lead to complications such as pulmonary embolism.
- Heart failure: When the heart cannot pump blood effectively, fluid can accumulate in the legs, ankles, and feet.
- Kidney disease: Impaired kidneys can cause fluid accumulation and peripheral edema.
- Liver disease: Disordered liver function can cause fluid accumulation in the abdomen and legs.
- Pregnancy: Hormonal changes and increased pressure on blood vessels during pregnancy can cause fluid buildup and swelling.
- Medications: Calcium channel blockers, corticosteroids, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can cause peripheral edema as a side effect.
- Inactivity or prolonged sitting or standing: Being immobile or stationary for extended periods can contribute to fluid accumulation in the legs.
While peripheral edema can affect anyone, certain factors may increase the risk of developing the condition. These risk factors include:
- Age: Peripheral edema is more common in older adults, as the circulatory system and lymphatic system become less efficient with age.
- Obesity: Excess weight can put additional pressure on the veins, leading to the retention of fluids and swelling.
- Prolonged immobility: People who spend extended periods sitting or standing, such as office workers or those with sedentary lifestyles, are at higher risk of developing peripheral edema.
- Certain medical conditions: Chronic conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, and varicose veins can increase the risk of peripheral edema.
Swelling and Lymphedema
The lymphatic system maintains the body's fluid balance and immune function. It consists of vessels and lymph nodes that channel lymphatic fluid throughout the body. Lymphedema can occur when the lymphatic system is injured or dysfunctional, preventing the efficient drainage of lymphatic fluid.
There are two main types of lymphedema: primary and secondary.
Primary lymphedema is a rare, inherited condition typically developing during adolescence or early adulthood. Abnormalities in the development of the lymphatic system cause it.
Secondary lymphedema, on the other hand, is more common and can occur due to an injury, infection, surgery, or radiation therapy that damages the lymphatic system.
The symptoms of lymphedema can vary but often include swelling, a feeling of heaviness or tightness in the affected area, decreased flexibility, and recurring infections.
Additional Causes of Swelling
- Salt intake: Consuming excessive amounts of sodium can lead to water retention, causing fluid buildup in the legs, ankles, and feet. It is important to be mindful of sodium consumption and maintain a balanced diet to prevent such swelling.
- Injuries or tissue damage: Swelling is a natural response of the body to injuries, as it works to protect and heal the damaged tissues.
- Ganglion cysts: These fluid-filled sacs can cause discomfort and may require medical intervention to alleviate the swelling and address the underlying cause.
- Infections in the lower limbs: Prompt medical attention and appropriate treatment are crucial to prevent the spread of infection and manage the associated swelling.
If you experience an unexplained enlargement of your limbs or other concerning symptoms, please schedule an evaluationschedule an evaluationschedule an evaluation by the expert team at Texas Endovascular for a proper assessment and diagnosis.