A few causes of ankle swelling (edema) in the elderly are serious, while one possible cause is innocent.
Do you have ankle swelling or know an elderly loved-one who does? Ankle swelling in an older person can mean a few serious things.
“If the swelling is new and only in one ankle, especially if the calf or back of the thigh is tender, see your physician to rule out a blood clot,” says Jacob Teitelbaum, MD (internal medicine), founder of the Fatigue and Fibromyalgia Practitioners Network. His latest book is “The Fatigue and Fibromyalgia Solution" (Avery Penguin 2013).
Another serious cause of ankle swelling in elderly:
If both ankles are swollen, this could mean heart failure. Dr. Teitelbaum explains, “This is usually associated with shortness of breath, which gets worse after you have been lying down for a while, as well as shortness of breath with exertion.”
An elderly person may assume that shortness of breath is a normal part of aging and not see it as a sign of something more serious.
“Heart failure is a common cause of unnecessary deaths,” continues Dr. Teitelbaum. “Why do I say unnecessary?” he adds. “Because simple natural therapies are dramatically effective at improving heart failure. Your physician, sadly, will likely not have seen this research because these treatments are generally low cost and therefore not profitable for the drug companies to advertise.”
Dr. Teitelbaum’s recommendation for a healthier heart:
“I find that a recipe of ribose (10 g a day), coenzyme Q 10 (200 mg a day), magnesium orotate (3,000 mg a day), acetyl-L-carnitine (1500 mg a day), plus a good B complex vitamin with 200 mg of magnesium (The Energy Revitalization System vitamin powder) will dramatically improve heart failure and other cardiac symptoms within six weeks – and has also been shown to prolong life.”
Innocuous cause of ankle swelling in elderly:
“If it is mild swelling that occurs at the end of a long day and was gone by the time you wake up in the morning and occurs in both legs, this is most often simply the effect of gravity,” says Dr. Teitelbaum.
“It helps to prop your feet up on a pillow while you're resting at the end of the day,” explains Dr. Teitelbaum “so the fluid drains out of your legs before you go to bed. Otherwise it will do so while you are sleeping, and you'll have to wake up to go pee. Varicose veins or venous insufficiency can also cause this.”
Kidney disease, liver cirrhosis and tight socks can also cause ankle swelling (and this is not limited to the elderly).
Additional causes of edema in the ankles: kidney or liver disease, low thyroid, celiac disease and excessive salt/sodium intake.