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Common Causes of Ankle Swelling

Common Causes of Ankle Swelling

You’re a woman in your third trimester and your ankles have puffed up to the size of your calves. Or, you’ve just come off a transatlantic flight and your feet and ankles are swollen. These are perfectly normal — and temporary — circumstances that lead to swollen ankles.

If your ankles are swollen more often than not and you can’t figure out why, it might be related to your cardiovascular health.

To help narrow down the potential causes of your swollen ankles, Dr. Satjit Bhusri and the team here at Upper East Side Cardiology outline a few of the possibilities below. 

Swollen ankles and cardiovascular issues

Since our area of expertise lies in cardiology, we want to focus on issues related to your cardiovascular system that may lead to swelling in your ankles. 

Medically known as edema, the swelling is due to fluid buildup in your tissues. One of the reasons why this often occurs in your lower extremities is that fluid tends to follow gravity and gather at the lowest points in your body. 

Now that we better understand the condition, let’s look at what can cause ankle swelling.

Sedentary lifestyle

One common cause of swelling is inactivity, or leading a more sedentary lifestyle. When you spend most of your time sitting or standing in one position, your blood vessels don’t benefit from movement to circulate your blood, which can strain your cardiovascular system.

Chronic venous insufficiency (CVI)

The veins in your legs rely on two things to help them pump blood back up to your heart for oxygenation:

  1. One-way valves that close off to prevent blood from spilling backward
  2. Muscles in your calves that contract and help push blood upward

With CVI, the valves in your legs don’t function properly, allowing blood to pool and engorge the superficial veins. When this happens, you can develop varicose veins as well as swelling in your ankles.

To put some numbers to this issue, up to 35% of people in the United States develop varicose veins, and the odds are good that some degree of CVI is present.

Problematic varicose veins

Speaking of varicose veins, they can lead to swelling in your legs of another sort — inflammation. If you have CVI and varicose veins develop, these veins can lead to ulcers and inflammation in your tissues.

Blood clot

Another source of swelling in your legs is blood clots, namely deep vein thrombosis (DVT). If you have a clot in one of the deeper veins in your leg, it can compromise the blood flow back to your heart and lead to swelling and pain. This usually occurs only on one side, which is a key difference that points to a blood clot.

Treating your swollen ankles

After we perform an extensive evaluation and identify the source of your swollen ankles, we can take action. It would be hard to say here what your treatment might entail as it depends upon the underlying cause. For example, if you have CVI, we may suggest wearing compression stockings as well as exercise.

If you’ve developed varicose veins, we offer effective treatment options through our Vein Institute that can eliminate these veins, and then we may suggest some of the steps we outline above for CVI to prevent new varicose veins from forming.

Rest assured, if your swollen ankles are in any way related to your cardiovascular health, we can help. 

To get to the bottom of your swollen ankles, give us a call. You can reach our office on New York City’s Upper East Side at (212) 752-3464.

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