Swollen ankles can be a problem for our loved ones
Swollen ankles is a common problem, among the elderly population. I dealt with this with my father as well. In many cases, ankle swelling may occur in response to an injury, while in some, it can indicate a serious underlying medical problem. In medical terms, swollen ankles are also known as pedal edema. This means, there is water retention in soft tissues that surround the ankle region or the ankle joint. Standing for long hours, excessive intake of sodium or an inactive lifestyle are some of the conditions that can cause the ankles to swell.
While limiting salt intake, keeping your feet at rest and exercising regularly, may provide relief from swollen ankles, it is still necessary to get a thorough examination done to understand the underlying cause. Dealing with this day out and being careful not to irritate the condition any further can cause strain on you, as the caregiver.
Understanding swollen ankles for your loved one
Edema is usually the most common cause of swollen ankles for your loved one. In simple terms, edema is an accumulation of fluid in the body, that consequently causes the soft tissues lying beneath the skin to swell.
Edema can be caused by two types: pitting edema and non–pitting edema. In pitting edema, a kind of indent is formed when we press the swollen ankles with a finger. Whereas, in the non-pitting type, no kind of indent is formed when pressure is applied to the swollen part.
There are many medical conditions that are known to play a role in the cause of edema for your loved ones. These include:
It can drastically reduce the capability of the kidneys to filter out salts and water from the body. This causes sodium retention, which is the major cause of edema.
Chronic lung disease
This can cause an increased pressure in the lungs, which in turn can cause swelling in the ankles.
Congestive heart failure
Congestive heart failure follows after a chronic heart problem. In this condition, the heart loses its efficiency to pump blood, causing swelling in the ankles and the legs.
This is a condition, characterized by obstruction of the lymphatic system, which in turn causes accumulation of fluid in the tissues.
A condition of the liver, wherein there is severe scarring that practically occurs either due to alcohol abuse or due to infections such as hepatitis B or C. This causes the blood pressure to rise, leading to poor circulation in the feet and ankles.
Thyroid conditions, such as hypothyroidism
Poor or improper blood circulation in the affected area
Other possible conditions
In addition to the above conditions, there are other conditions, that can also cause swollen ankles for your loved one. These include:
- Injuries to the ankle, such as ankle sprain, broken ankle, fractured ankle, sprained ankle
There are many types of medications that can also cause swelling in the ankle. These medications include:
- Certain types of antidepressants, such as MAO inhibitors, tricyclics
- Non – steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, like aspirin and ibuprofen
Understanding the actual cause behind swollen ankles is very necessary to create an appropriate treatment plan for your loved one.
Treating swollen ankles
Treatment of swollen ankles will mainly depend on the cause of the condition. However, if injury, fractures or some serious medical condition is not the cause, then you as the caregiver can do the following for your loved ones:
- Help them to keep their legs at an elevated level whenever they sleep or are sitting.
- Ask them to regularly engage in some or other form of mild exercises. Staying active is one of the major keys to keeping edema at bay. An exercise bike can help, this is what I used for my father.
- Focus on their dietary intake. Reduce the amount of salt intake and also take a close look at the number of processed foods they are eating. Reduce it to a minimum and focus more on fresh fruits and vegetable and whole grains.
- Keep your loved ones well hydrated. Ask them to drink plenty of fluids, to allow the kidneys to appropriately flush out the toxins and other components.
- Help them reduce their weight if they are overweight or obese. Maintaining an ideal body weight would exert less pressure on their ankles.
- Ask your loved one to wear compression socks, which will make them more comfortable and also help in reducing enema. Compression stockings help in improving the blood flow to the legs, causing a significant reduction in edema. There are various types of compression stockings that are available in drug stores and you can choose the one that best suits the needs of your elderly loved one.
- Do not allow your loved one to sit for long periods of time. Ask them to take a break and stand up and walk for some time. Sitting for extended periods can again cause the ankles to swell.
Solutions I can help you with
Sometimes caring for a loved one can cause you to stress because you can’t be in 2 places at one time: Taking care of your business and taking care of your loved one. Look into hiring some help for yourself. This will give you the opportunity to get some rest and also make sure your loved one is properly cared for.
Or maybe you want to spend more time with your loved one while taking a break from some of the redundant business tasks like sending out emails, returning calls, or organizing files. Let’s chat about how I can be of service to you so you can take care of your business and your loved one. You can also, check out some of my books that can help you care for your loved one.
The above-mentioned tips can make your loved one comfortable if the pedal edema isn’t due to a serious condition. However, if you also feel that there are some medications that are causing the pedal edema, it is best to discuss this with your doctor right away. You also need to keep in mind, that not all forms of pedal edema can be successfully treated at home with the said remedies. Some types may require medical intervention and therefore, if you feel that the edema isn’t getting better with home remedies, it is best to consult the doctor immediately.