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Swollen Ankles and Feet

Q: I've always been blessed with good health, and a positive attitude - even these days, when long work hours are keeping me at my desk for eight hours straight. But now I'm stressing out over my ankles and feet - they start feeling swollen by midafternoon, and by the time I get home at night, my shoes are so tight, it hurts to pull them off. At first, I thought the problem was related to my usual pre-menstrual bloating, but my period ended days ago, and I'm still puffy. What's happening, and how can get relief?

Dr. Donnica:
Significant feet and ankle swelling in a non-pregnant, healthy, young woman is not normal; this needs medical evaluation. In the meantime, to determine the source of your edema (fluid retention), press the swollen area with your fingertip. If an indentation or "pit" remains in your skin after you press it, see your doctor sooner rather than later to be certain you don't have a serious medical problem. If skin quickly returns to its pre-touched state, the swelling may be caused by your recent period of forced inactivity. Ankles and feet are prime sites for the fluid retention, since gravity causes fluid and blood to pool. Even mild physical exercise boosts venous blood flow return to help move excess fluid from the lower extremities to the kidneys, so the following simple strategies may provide enough of a circulatory assist to minimize swelling. Take short breaks at least every hour to get up and walk. Draw toe-circles in the air when you're stuck in your chair. If you wear pantyhose, choose a light support brand. Wear comfortable shoes with good support, rather than tight heels. Mild diuretic herbals tea (such as dandelion or parsley) or a glass of grapefruit juice may also help eliminate fluid excess gently.

Created: 10/14/2006  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.

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