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Part 3 of 4 on Swollen Ankles and Fluid Retention - this week - exploring more on swelling related to serious medical conditions

Posted by Eamonn Brady on

Swollen Ankles & Fluid Retention  Part 3


I continue the subject of swelling due to more serious medical conditions.



Lymphoedema can cause fluid build-up. It occurs when the lymphatic system is damaged. The lymphatic system is a series of glands (lymph nodes) around the body connected by a network of vessels similar to blood vessels. Fluid surrounding body tissues usually drains into nearby lymph vessels so it can be transported away and back into the blood. However, if the lymphatic vessels are blocked, excess fluid cannot be re-absorbed and will build up in tissue. Lymphoedema usually affects the arms or legs, although in some cases there may be swelling in the chest, head and genitals. Lymphoedema is mainly caused as a side effect of cancer treatment, especially breast cancer treatment. Approximately one in five women suffer from lymphoedema in their arm after radiotherapy or lymph nodes are removed due to breast cancer treatment. Once lymphoedema occurs, it is permanent but is manageable with proper care. 30 to 50% of people with lymphoedema suffer from pain in the affected area. Maintaining a healthy weight and lifestyle including regular exercise is the best way of controlling lymphoedema and preventing complications like infections. Physiotherapy and the wearing of especially measured compression garments are also part of treatment. Cancer Support Sanctuary, LARCC in Multyfarnham offer registered Manual Lymph Drainage Practitioners fully qualified to treat people with lymphoedema. Tel 04493 71971 for more info.


Lymphoedema weakens the immune system of the affected limbs making infection like cellulitis in that area more likely. Skin must be kept clean and moist. It is recommended that a low pH skin lotion that contains no perfumes or other irritants be applied to the skin and nails in the affected area daily to prevent infections.


Blood clots

Blood clots that form in the veins of the legs can block the flow of blood from the legs back up to the heart; this can cause swelling in the ankles and feet. Blood clots can be superficial, occurring in the veins just beneath the skin. A more serious condition is a deep clot, known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Deep clots can block one or more of the major veins of the legs. DVTs can be life-threatening as they can break loose and travel to the heart and lungs causing a potentially fatal clot in these important organs. DVT’s most commonly occur below the knee, especially in the calf. It is mostly caused by immobility, which explains why it is a risk during long haul flights and after surgery. Other risk factors for DVT include obesity, pregnancy, dehydration, the contraceptive pill, cancer and heart failure. If you have swelling in one leg, along with pain, a hot feeling in the affected area, an overall mild fever and possibly a change in color of the affected leg, you must get immediate treatment. Treatment with blood thinners may be necessary. Compression stockings can prevent them if you are at risk, your pharmacist can measure you for them. The incidence increases from 1 in 10,000 for individuals younger than 40 years to 1 in 100 for those older than 60 years. It is estimated that about 1 in 10 people with an untreated DVT develop a pulmonary embolism (in lungs) large enough to cause respiratory symptoms or death.


Faulty valves

A common cause of swelling in the lower legs is peripheral venous disease, a condition in which the veins in the legs cannot pump enough blood back up to the heart because the valves in the veins are damaged. Blood clots are a common cause for this. Swollen ankles can be due to damaged valves in the veins; this can lead to varicose veins. This is when the superficial leg veins contain faulty and leaky valves. Blood should be pushed up the veins against gravity through a series of valves, like lock gates. When walking, leg muscles contract and act as a pump, moving the blood upwards. Leaking valves allow the blood to flow backwards and the increased lower limb pressure forces fluid into the tissues of the foot and ankle, causing varicose veins.


What is BPro Cardio Screen Service?

BPro Cardio Screen measures stiffness of your arteries to identify risk of blockages and risk of cardiovascular disease and circulation problems. BPRo is placed like a watch on your wrist and is pain free. A pulse wave reads and calculates a wave signal that indicates the elasticity of large, small, and peripheral artery walls as well as tests for stress, central blood pressure, heart rate, and more. It is now €35 (was €50); it only takes about 15 minutes. The next clinic is Saturday March 27th (from 9am to 5pm) at Whelehans Pearse St. Book by calling Whelehans at 04493 34591.

To be continued… next week.

For comprehensive and free health advice and information call in to Whelehans Pharmacies, log on to or dial 04493 34591 (Pearse St) or 04493 10266 (Clonmore).

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