What is causing my swollen feet and ankles?
Most likely: water retention.
As we get older, healthy function in the autonomic nervous system and lymphatic system can decrease. The autonomic nervous system controls things like body temperature, blood pressure, blood circulation etc. The lymphatic system is responsible for clearing micro waste products, and is an essential part of the immune system. If either system isn’t working at optimum level, the blood vessels in your legs may allow excess fluid (water, lymph) to “pool” in your legs and sometimes in your hands, especially in hot weather, or after prolonged sitting.
It is common to get swollen ankles after a plane journey too, due to the combination of sitting and altered pressure in the aeroplane. But if they stay swollen, it is often the autonomic nervous system or the lymphatic system to blame.
Swollen, usually painless ankles and feet, with shoes feeling tighter, and/or swollen, usually painless fingers and your rings feel too tight.
In hot weather, alteration in salt levels in your system due to sweating makes the problem worse.
Self-help: wear flight socks for flights and move around the plane. Sit with your feet up whenever possible. “Paddle” your feet up and down whenever you are sitting to help the leg muscles to push the fluid up your legs. Flap your hands up and down if your fingers are affected, or regularly grip and release your hands, sit with your hands above your head for a while to let gravity help!
If the weather is hot, drink more fluids, as this stops salt concentration. Decrease alcohol and caffeine consumption as they dehydrate you. Your GP may be able to prescribe a mild water tablet such as bendroflumethiazide for use just before flights, or during your holidays to hot climates. This obviously depends on what other medication you are using.
If this is happening very regularly, and the exercises haven’t helped, lymphatic drainage massage or acupressure massage can help – call us to make an appointment.
GP Visit Required
More serious causes: heart and kidney disease can lead to swollen feet and ankles, so get a check up from your GP.
Immediate Medical Attention
If only one leg swells, especially if it is also tender when you squeeze your calf or it is hot when you touch it, you should seek IMMEDIATE medical attention, this can be a sign of DVT (deep vein thrombosis), a blood clot in the leg that can lead to stroke or pulmonary embolism (blood clot on the lung), both of which can be fatal.