How to Treat a Swollen Ankle

The first step to treating a swollen ankle is to identify the cause behind it. There are many different reasons, from lifestyle decisions like not eating enough magnesium to underlying conditions like having blood clots. In this blog, we will be discussing how to identify the cause of a swollen ankle and how you can treat it.

Edema

The medical term for swelling of the ankles, feet, or legs is edema. In most cases, a swollen ankle is temporary and will go away on its own. Common causes of edema are related to lifestyle. If you carry around excess weight, are restricted in movement, or overeat salt, you could be at risk for developing edema.

People at risk of developing edema stand or walk for long periods, are obese, pregnant, or suffer from a disease that targets the heart, kidneys, liver, and veins.

Vascular Diseases

Vascular diseases can cause a more severe form of swelling. In vascular diseases, such as deep venous disease, superficial venous insufficiency, and deep vein thrombosis, damaged veins result in complications. They can lead to the pooling of blood in the leg area. If you think your swollen ankles result from vascular disease, infection, or lymphedema, you must contact your doctor for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.

Increasing risk factors for vascular disease are age, pregnancy, diabetes, high cholesterol, hypertension, obesity, smoking, blood clotting problems, illness, injury, standing for a long time, and sitting for a long time.

Foot or Ankle Injury

People who strain or sprain their ankle will most likely experience painful swelling. Ankle sprains are one of the most common causes of ankle swelling. Some treatment for this includes:

  • Following the R.I.C.E. method, which stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation.
  • Visiting a doctor if at-home treatments do not cure the pain and swelling. It could be signs of a fracture or more severe soft tissue damage.

Cellulitis

The bacterial infection of cellulitis is most familiar with those who have a weakened immune system. Diabetes, leukemia, H.I.V., and AIDS leaves you more prone to infections. Cellulitis makes the skin red, swollen, and warm to the touch. If you do not treat the condition promptly, it can spread to the bloodstream and become life-threatening. Generally speaking, doctors will prescribe antibiotics in this situation.

Medication Side Effects

People taking anti-inflammatory drugs, hormones, diabetic medication, antidepressants, and calcium channel blockers are at risk of developing swollen ankles and feet. For treatment, talk to your doctor, who will most likely prescribe a diuretic or provide methods of reducing uncomfortable swelling.

Pregnancy

As mentioned, pregnancy can cause edema or swollen ankles. Some swelling is completely normal during pregnancy, especially during the last trimester. However, sudden swelling of the hands and face could be a sign of a condition called preeclampsia.

Those who experience mild swelling during pregnancy can usually treat it with at-home remedies. These include eating potassium-rich food, reducing salt intake, avoiding caffeine, wearing comfortable shoes and supportive stockings, avoiding standing for long periods, elevating their feet, applying a cold compress, and wearing loose-fitting clothes.

Edema Treatment

You can take specific steps to ease the pain and discomfort associated with a swollen ankle or foot.

  • Compression socks- offer a gentle squeeze that aids in blood circulation and prevents fluid from collecting in your ankles or feet, minimizing swelling and pain. Put them on in the morning and wear them as long as you’re comfortable.
  • Elevation- you should elevate your legs above your heart. Elevation will help drain built-up fluid from your legs. Let gravity give your circulatory system a boost.
  • Epsom salt bath- soak your feet and ankles in a tub with Epsom salt for 15 to 20 minutes. Many doctors promote this because it’s easy and affordable.
  • Magnesium-rich foods/supplements- low magnesium can cause your body to swell and retain water. Try eating nuts and seeds, legumes, fiber-rich grains, low-fat dairy products, greens, and dark chocolate. Daily supplements also work. After talking to your doctor, try taking 200mg to 400mg of magnesium a day.
  • Hydrate – when you are dehydrated, your body’s natural response is to hold onto as much fluid as possible. This excess water weight can lead to bloating and swelling. By simply drinking more water, you can help your body to flush out extra sodium and other toxins from your system.

Contact The Foot & Ankle Center Today!

If you, or someone you know, is suffering from edema, contact The Foot & Ankle Center. We can help manage pain, symptoms and provide treatment plans to help get you back on your feet as soon as possible. We’re here to help you. Trust our dynamic staff to provide the information and services you need to live a full, healthy life. So, what are you waiting for? Request an appointment today!


Can Feet Get Smaller?

The short answer to this question is no, not really. You see, your foot length always stays the same. However, a reduction of up to one and a half shoe sizes is not unusual due to an overall decrease in the circumference of the foot. But how can the circumference of your foot change so drastically? Well, in this blog, that’s precisely what you’ll find out.

Weight Loss

Significant weight loss is probably the most common reason some people may feel some extra space in their shoes. People underestimated how packing on the pounds can affect their feet. Excess weight stretches out the connective tissues in our feet, which puts extra strain on our foot muscles. It can also wear down the natural fat pads, which cushion your feet and absorb the shock when you take steps or stand for long periods.

Losing excess weight can cause fat loss and reduce inflammation in your feet. So, if you lose some weight and you have to change your shoe size, your foot has gotten smaller, kind of. The overall structure of your foot hasn’t changed, but as mentioned, you’ve lost fat and reduced inflammation.

Neuropathic Joint Disease

Neuropathic joint disease, also known as Charcot foot, can cause bones to disintegrate due to nerve damage. In general, Charcot foot is an inflammatory process that affects the soft tissues, bones, and joints in the foot or ankle. This condition can result from complete or near-complete numbness in one or both feet and ankles. The bones in the front become weak, making them prone to fractures and dislocations. If left untreated, it can lead to severe deformity, disability, or amputation.

Charcot Foot Causes

Charcot foot occurs in people who have numbness in their feet and legs because of a type of nerve damage called peripheral neuropathy. Peripheral neuropathy is associated with several conditions:

  • Alcohol use disorder
  • Diabetes
  • Drug use
  • HIV
  • Infection, trauma, or damage in the peripheral nerves
  • Inflammatory conditions (sarcoidosis or psoriasis)
  • Leprosy
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Polio
  • Syphilis
  • Syringomyelia

There are three stages of Charcot foot that outline what someone who suffers from it can expect.

Stage 1—Fragmentation & Destruction

You can identify the first stage by redness and significant swelling of the foot and ankle. Said areas might also be warm or hot to the touch. First, soft tissue swelling and bone fractures occur, which results in the destruction of the joints and surrounding bone. This causes the joints to lose stability, resulting in dislocation. Bones may even “jellify,” softening completely. The bottom of the foot may take on a flat appearance, and bony protrusions may also appear on the bottom of the foot. If left untreated, this stage can last up to a year.

Stage 2—Coalescence

It’s at this stage that the body attempts to heal itself. The destruction of the bones and joints slows down, which reduces swelling, redness, and warmth. Fragments of bone will attempt to fuse themselves together. Your doctor will most likely suggest a type of cast or brace to keep the area still and to relieve pressure from the damaged tissue.

Stage 3—Reconstruction

Here, joints and bones of the foot heal. However, they do not go back to their original condition or shape on their own. It’s unfortunate, but even though there’s no more damage to the foot, it can still be left in a deformed and unstable state. At this stage, the foot may also be more prone to sores and ulcers, leading to further deformities and even amputation.

Charcot Foot Treatment

If caught early, treatment centers around reducing swelling and heat in the affected areas. You’ll also want to stabilize the foot by keeping it immobile. It’s essential to eliminate any weight or pressure on the foot to stop additional damage from being done. This is called “off-loading.”

There are also several low-tech, nonsurgical treatments for Charcot foot that may help stop the progression of Charcot foot:

  • Wearing a protective splint, walking brace, or customized walking boot
  • Minimizing or eliminating all weight on the affected foot by using a wheelchair, crutches, or a walking scooter
  • Using an orthopedic brace to correct alignment of the foot
  • Wearing a contact cast explicitly fitted to your leg and foot

Once your foot or feet heal enough, you may be fit for a therapeutic shoe to reduce your chances of getting Charcot foot again.

The Foot & Ankle Center

If you have any concerns about your feet and ankles or have noticed a difference in their shape or function, please contact The Foot & Ankle Center today. We can help you live a better life by addressing your foot and ankle issues right there on the spot. Don’t wait and let these health problems get out of hand. Call us today at 314-487-9300 or request an appointment online with us!


How to Relieve Foot Arthritis Pain

When talking about foot arthritis pain, it’s important to mention that arthritis is a general term that refers to more than 100 different illnesses. However, these illnesses all seem to have one thing in common, inflammation in and around the joints and the nearby soft tissue. With many kinds of arthritis, the smooth cartilage between your joints wears down over time, causing the bones on either side of the joint to meet and wear against each other. This, coupled with inflammation, can cause severe pain.

Before we get to how we must address the what. First, we must explain the different types of foot arthritis to explain what you can do for pain relief.  

Different Types of Foot Arthritis

Osteoarthritis, also known as wear-and-tear- arthritis, is the most common form of arthritis in older populations. Doctors refer to it as a degenerative joint disease, as it causes changes over many years. Foot and ankle joints are the most common locations for individuals to develop osteoarthritis.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease in that an individual’s immune system attacks their joints. This usually happens to the same joint on both sides of the body.

Gout is the buildup of uric acid in the body caused by dietary choices. It is most common to experience gout in the big toe, as it is the farthest away from the heart.

Psoriatic arthritis can happen in one or more joints. This includes the ankle and the ends of your toes. It may also cause your foot to swell.

Post-traumatic arthritis occurs after a severe injury such as joint dislocation or bone fracture. In cases of post-traumatic arthritis, an individual who suffers may not experience problems until years after the initial injury.

Symptoms of Foot Arthritis

There are many different types of symptoms that accompany foot arthritis. Here are some of the most common:

  • Tenderness when you touch the joint
  • Pain when you move the joint
  • Trouble moving, walking, or putting weight on the affected limb
  • Joint stiffness, warmth, or swelling
  • More pain and swelling after resting (e.g., sitting and sleeping)

Foot Arthritis Treatment

The treatment of foot arthritis is as wide-ranging as the condition is. There are many different steps you can take to help reduce pain and protect your joints. Here are few things you can do to fight back against your arthritis.

Steroid Injections

Steroid injections are great for addressing pain. However, it’s important to remember that they only mask the symptom, they don’t cure the underlying condition. You also have to be careful how often you use them. Unfortunately, too much of a good thing, and you risk weakening bones, ligaments, and tendons in the affected area.

NSAIDs

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, like ibuprofen and aspirin, are great for controlling swelling. These types of drugs help block a group of chemicals called prostaglandins. These chemicals play a role in pain and inflammation. While these can be helpful, make sure to speak with your doctor before long or short-term use, as the side effects of the medicines include cardiovascular and GI issues. Your doctor may opt for a topical anti-inflammatory instead, which will carry fewer sides effects.

Shoe Inserts

Shoe inserts that support your foot and ankle also referred to as orthotics, are great ways to help heal arthritis and manage pain. Orthotics are excellent because they’re custom-made. So, they can be customized to change the mechanics of an individual’s foot. They can also be more accommodating to someone’s feet by providing more cushioning.

Custom-Fitted Shoes or a More High-End Shoe

Custom-fitted shoes or a more high-end shoe that offers enough support and toe room is key for those who suffer from arthritis. You’ll want to avoid going barefoot as much as possible, so it’s important that the shoe you pick is comfortable for long periods of time. Avoid heels, flats, or any other shoes with a thin sole. It’s also important to remember to replace your shoes regularly. High-end athletic shoes with soft orthotic soles have a set number of miles built into them. Wear them past that number and the shoe will fail to give you the proper support that your foot needs.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy is critical in easing pain and preventing damage done by arthritis. There are many different methods that help with symptoms, such as massage, whirlpool, cold packs, ultrasound, and lasers. After the inflammation has been reduced, the physical therapist can then create a program to help their patient build strength, gain more flexibility in the joint, and restore balance, all to reduce the amount of stress put on the affected joint.

Lose Weight

As mentioned above, it’s important to reduce the amount of stress put on the affected joint. One way you can do this is to lose weight. Even if it’s five to ten pounds, that’s enough to help relieve stress from your joints. You can also wear toe caps. To caps are small sleeves made of gel or compression fabric. While they won’t cure arthritis, they can help to relieve pressure and reduce pain during flare-ups.

Surgery

Some people have no choice but to get surgery to help relieve the pain they feel from their arthritis. While surgery is generally reserved for severe cases, the following procedures are considered quite common:

  1. Fusion Surgery- fusing the bones that comprise a joint with rods, pins, screws, or plates. After the surgery site heals, the bones remained joined
  2. Joint Replacement Surgery-also known as an arthroplasty; a doctor will take out the damaged bone and cartilage and replace it with metal or plastic.

Make an Appointment with The Foot & Ankle Center

We help heal everything. From the orthotics to the pain management, trust The Foot & Ankle Center to fix your feet. For more information or to book an appointment, click here.


I Rolled My Ankle. Now What?

So, you were playing tennis or basketball. You took a sharp turn and rolled your ankle. Don’t feel embarrassed. It happens to an odd 25,000 people every single day. What’s important is that you know how to identify a severe ankle sprain from a milder one and what you can do to help yourself get back on your feet.

What Is an Ankle Sprain?

There are two types of ankle sprains:

  1. Eversion Sprain- an inward ankle roll that affects the tendons and ligaments on the inside of your ankle. These tendons and ligaments also help support the arch of the foot.
  2. Inversion Sprain- an outward ankle roll that affects the tendons and ligaments on the outside of your ankle.

Ligaments are strong, fibrous tissues that connect the bone of your ankle to the bones of your leg. When you roll or sprain your ankle you are stretching or tearing these tissues.   

Sprained ankles are easy to spot. You will most likely feel pain right in the area where the ligament(s) has been stretched or torn. You’ll experience immediate swelling and sometimes bruising.

In more severe cases, you’ll feel and/or hear a pop(s) followed by extreme pain and the inability to put any weight on the injured limb.

Medications

Pain medications for rolled ankles are usually relegated to over-the-counter medication you can find at any pharmacy. Advil, Aleve, and Tylenol are generally enough to manage the pain.

The Common Treatment

P.R.I.C.E is a commonly used acronym to help outline the steps one should take to help heal their sprained ankle. The meaning behind each letter is detailed below.

  • Protect injured limb- keep the injured ankle still in the first moments, hours, and day of the injury
  • Rest- avoid all activities that cause more pain, swelling, and discomfort
  • Ice- Use an ice pack or ice bath for 15 to 20 minutes every two to three hours you are awake for the first 72 hours following the injury
  • Compression- Use an elastic bandage to wrap around the injured foot and ankle. The compression will help with swelling, but make sure not to wrap it too tight, or you risk cutting off circulation to the area
  • Elevation- Elevate the ankle above your heart, especially while you’re sleeping. Gravity will help drain the area of any excess fluid, which will help bring the swelling down

The P.R.I.C.E. approach is great for mild sprains. The key in the first 72 hours is to manage swelling and pain.

Therapy Following an Ankle Sprain

You’ll want to start experimenting with movement following the first 72 hours.  Studies show that gentle exercise is beneficial for recovery because it helps create blood flow that may speed up the recovery process.

Talk with your doctor or physical therapist for exercises you can do to help promote strength, balance, stability, and range of motion. Balance and stability exercises are key to a healthy recovery because these help retrain the ankle muscles to work together to support the joint, which helps prevent a sprain from reoccurring.

Some exercises you can try on your own are walking (when possible), trace the alphabet with your big toe, and stretching your calf by leaning with your hands flat against a wall and your affected leg straightened behind you. 

When Do I Call My Doctor?

If you experience severe pain and swelling after attempting self-care techniques, and/or you hear a pop when the roll occurs, we suggest you make an appointment to see your primary care physician just to make sure you haven’t torn any ligaments.

Torn ligaments may require surgery to repair them or to completely reconstruct them using surrounding tissue from a near-by ligament or tendon.

Long-Term Care

One of the key things you should avoid when healing from a sprained ankle is footwear that makes your ankle unstable. Go for a comfortable, supportive shoe with a wide toe box.  Stretching is another important factor you shouldn’t overlook. You should be stretching your ankle and leg before and after exercise, as well as casually throughout the day. Finally, just because your ankle feels better doesn’t mean you should stop trying to strengthen the joint. Continue with ankle strengthening exercises, and you should be set to get back out on the court.

The Foot & Ankle Center

Believe you’ve rolled your ankle or injured more than what you can manage at home? Request an appointment today at one of The Foot & Ankle Center’s six convenient St. Louis locations.  Our expert podiatrists are here to help you manage your pain, heal what’s been broken, and to get you feeling your best.


Go-To Supportive Summer Shoes

Shoes are expressive and supportive. After changing into clothes for work, the gym, or hanging out with friends, you grab a pair of shoes to complete the outfit. They make you stand a little taller, walk a little faster, and go a little farther.

No matter how casual and easy to wear, flip flops will always lack much-needed support. They’re ok if only used for a couple of hours; any more than that, and pain could occur in your arch and heel, and your feet could become tired and sore. Instead, opt for shoes with more arch support, thicker soles, and cushion. Let’s take a look at the go-to supportive summer shoes:

Mules

Want a shoe that is easy to slip on, like flip flops, but is comfortable to wear? Mules are the answer! People love wearing mules because there’s no heel for the back of the foot to rub against. Also, less pressure is applied to the balls of your feet since mules have a low heel height.

Sandals

Sandal straps are good because they hold your feet in place. Adjustable straps are even better, as they can accommodate for bunions, hammertoes, wide feet, and more. Pay attention to the middle of the sole. If it bends, the sandal has poor arch support. So, look for sandals with a thick sole and good arch support as you’re shopping or evaluating the shoes you own.

Loafers

Loafers are a great alternative to wearing heels and are just as professional. Compared to heels, loafers have more shock absorption and support. The sides and top of your foot will be supported by material. This all means less foot pain for you.  As you walk your company through your presentation, you’ll stand a little taller with the right pair of shoes. 

Wedges

The best height for wedges? 2 inches or less! With each inch added, more pressure is applied to the ball of your foot, and your weight is less evenly distributed. A lower heel will allow you to walk for hours. Go dancing with your friends, and see how much faster you can dance with the right footwear. For more comfort and to prevent injury, put on wedges with a flexible forefront.

Sneakers or Closed-Toe Shoes

This option is perfect for going to the gym or on a hike. Sneakers, hiking boots, or other closed-toe shoes offer more protection than others. However, the one thing to watch out for is sweat. Choose shoes with a leather or mesh fabric to allow feet to breathe. With the proper footwear, you’ll go further on your exercise journey.

Chunky Sneakers

Dad shoes are in style! Their popularity made them stand out this season. Why, you ask? They provide excellent arch support, and their material has enough support for people to walk or stand for hours. Plus, they’re trendy!

See A Podiatrist Before Shoe Shopping

All of these summer shoes are go-to options for supporting your feet. Yet, if your feet are in constant pain, consider seeing a podiatrist. The doctors at The Foot & Ankle Center have the expertise to pinpoint the source of your pain and create a customized treatment plan. Call (314) 487-9300 or request an appointment today!