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A review of pt 1 in our 4 pt series on Swollen ankles and fluid retention - Why and causes

Posted by Eamonn Brady on

Swollen Ankles & Fluid Retention Part 1


The feet and ankles are the most common areas for swelling because they are furthest from the heart meaning the heart’s force of “pushing” blood through our blood vessels is weakest and due to forces of gravity. Oedema is the medical term for fluid retention.


Why does fluid retention occur?

Swelling can occur in one part of the body such (e.g.) result of an injury, or it can be more general. More general fluid retention tends to be due more serious health conditions such as heart failure or kidney failure.


As well as swelling or puffiness of the skin, oedema can also cause:

  • areas of skin that temporarily hold the imprint of your finger when pressed (pitting oedema)
  • stiff joints
  • skin discolouration
  • aching or tender limbs
  • weight gain or weight loss
  • raised blood pressure or pulse

Types of oedema

Oedema is most common in the feet and ankles which is known as peripheral oedema. Other types of oedema can me more serious. They include cerebral oedema (affects brain), pulmonary oedema (affects lungs) or macular oedema (affects eyes). Cerebral oedema can be fatal and can be caused by head injury, strokes (clot), brain haemorrhage (bleeding in the brain), infection such as meningitis or brain tumours. Pulmonary oedema makes breathing difficult and can be fatal if not controlled; it has many potential causes including heart failure, kidney failure, drug overdose (e.g., Aspirin, heroin) and pulmonary embolism (clot in lung). Macular oedema is swelling or thickening of the macula, the part of the eye responsible for detailed, central vision. Macular oedema develops when blood vessels in the retina are leaking fluids and is most often a complication of diabetes not kept under control.


What causes oedema?

Oedema can be a symptom of an underlying health condition or treatment including:

  • heart failure
  • kidney disease
  • chronic lung disease e.g., COPD, emphysema (most often caused by smoking)
  • pregnancy
  • thyroid disease
  • liver disease  
  • malnutrition
  • medication (e.g.) corticosteroids or some medicines for high blood pressure (e.g.) amlodipine, lercanidipine
  • contraceptive pill


Fluid retention in the leg may be caused by:

  • a blood clot
  • varicose veins
  • a growth or cyst


Oedema can also sometimes occur due to:

  • being immobile for long periods
  • hot weather
  • exposure to high altitudes
  • burns to the skin


How compression stocking can help

Compression hosiery are elasticated stockings that give support to your legs and one of the most effective treatment options for swollen legs and ankles. In graduated compression hosiery, the pressure given by the stockings is greater at the ankle and reduces towards your knee. The stockings can be knee-length or thigh-length depending on your condition.

Free measurement and fitting

With appointments available free of charge, Whelehans Compression Hosiery Consultation service provides a dedicated fitting service at Whelehans Pearse St. Our staff guide you to ensure you have the correct stocking including advice on managing and maintaining your hosiery, such as washing, removal, replacement etc. We will order your hosiery for collection the following day. Call Whelehans Pharmacy Pearse St on 044 9334591 to book your personal appointment. If you have a medical card, the HSE covers the cost of two pairs of compression stockings per year.


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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