Swollen Feet and Ankles

Swollen Feet and Ankles

An introduction to swollen feet and ankles

Swollen feet and ankles are a common condition and are not typically a cause for concern, especially if you have been walking or standing a lot. In fact, the majority of people will experience swollen feet and ankles periodically in their lives.

However, if the swelling of your feet and ankles persists and is accompanied by other symptoms such as redness, pain or fever, then this may be a sign of a more severe health condition.

The medical term for swelling is oedema (also spelled edema). This refers to observable swelling that develops as a result of fluid accumulation in the bodily tissues. It is not restricted just to the ankles and feet but may affect a number of body parts including the legs, arms, hands, muscles, eyes, lungs and brain.

When swelling occurs in the ankles, legs, feet, and/or hands, it is known as peripheral oedema and when it affects only the feet, it is sometimes referred to as pedal oedema.

Sitting, standing or lying down (for example when on bed rest) for extended periods of time is one of the most common causes swelling of the lower part of the body. This is known as dependent oedema and is the result of gravity causing fluid to pool in the lower extremities.

The specific area affected by swelling often depends on the position of your body at the time. Dependent oedema tends to occur in your legs or ankles when you are sitting or standing and in your lower back, if you are bed bound and lying down for extended periods (this is then referred to as sacral oedema).

It is important to remember that oedema is not necessarily the cause of swollen feet and ankles, but rather a description of the symptom of swelling. 

NEXT What are the causes of swollen feet and ankles?

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