Many older adults struggle with swelling in their ankles and feet. This kind of swelling is called peripheral edema. It happens when fluids collect in the area of the swelling.
The swelling isn’t usually painful, but it can be uncomfortable, making skin feel tight. It can also make it difficult for the older adult to wear shoes. In most cases, the swelling doesn’t pose a serious threat, but the underlying condition that causes it may require medical attention. Knowing what might be causing your aging relative’s swollen feet and ankles can help you to decide if they need to see a doctor. Below are some common causes of peripheral edema.
If your older family member injures their foot or ankle, the area may swell. The most common injury to cause swelling is a sprained ankle. A sprained ankle occurs when the ligaments that are responsible for holding the ankle in the proper position are stretched more than they should be, such as by a misstep. If the swelling and pain are minor, you may be able to treat them at home using ice and elevating the injured ankle. However, if the pain, swelling, or bruising is severe, the senior should see a doctor.
There can be some lifestyle factors that cause swelling. A person who is mostly sedentary can experience swelling in the feet. Being overweight also makes it more likely that feet and ankles will swell. Another lifestyle factor that can cause feet to swell is wearing shoes that don’t fit well.
A blood clot is an example of a cause of swelling that requires medical attention. A blood clot in the vein of a leg disrupts circulation, making it difficult for blood in the legs to move back toward the heart. If the clot is in one of the deep veins, it can be life threatening.
Heart, Liver, or Kidney Disease
Heart failure can cause ankles and feet to swell in the evening hours. Kidney disease is another cause of foot and ankle swelling. Liver disease can lead to swelling because the body may not produce enough albumin, which keeps fluid from leaking from blood vessels.
Side Effect of Medications
There are many kinds of medications that have swelling as a side effect. Since older adults are often on multiple medications, it’s quite possible that your aging relative’s peripheral edema is caused by something they are taking.
Some medications that can cause swelling are:
- Hormone replacements.
- Some blood pressure medicines.
- Diabetes medications.
Home care providers can watch for signs of peripheral edema in your aging relative and report them to family caregivers. Depending on the cause of the swelling, a home care provider can assist with bringing the swelling down, such as by helping the senior to elevate their feet. Home care providers can also allow the senior to rest when their feet and ankles are bothering them. Meanwhile, the home care provider can do things like clean the house, do laundry, or make a meal.