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Swelling of the ankle

What is swelling?

Swelling is a condition in which the tissue or organs of the body enlarge due to excess amounts of liquid. This occurs whenever the body takes damage (i.e. bumping into a corner) and reacts by releasing chemicals into the area to cause the smallest blood vessels (capillaries) to widen. This causes an increase in blood flow, and allows liquid to seep into the area. This enables more white blood cells to enter the area and fight off any possible infections. While swelling is mostly beneficial, it can also be problematic, and in some cases can be detrimental to recovery.

How is swelling treated?

Swelling is typically treated with ice packs and pressure that cause the blood vessels to shrink in size, thus reversing the swelling. However, different types of swelling may require alternative treatments depending on whether they are generalized(all over the body) or localized (in one area):

Generalized swelling:

Generalized swelling occurs in large areas of the body. This could include the swelling of the right arm or swelling of the chest. This form of swelling is usually associated with more serious conditions that require medical attention, such as heart failure or liver failure.

Localized swelling:

Localized swelling occurs in target areas, such as joints (examples include elbows, ankles and knees) or bug bites. This is the most common type of swelling and usually only requires an ice pack to treat.


Edema is a form of swelling that usually occurs in the lower part of the legs. Edema is very common during summer, especially in patients who walk or stand frequently.

Another form of edema, known as massive edema, occurs as generalized swelling. This is common among people who are sick. This form of edema is harder to detect, but symptoms become more noticeable as the condition progresses.

Edema is categorized into two forms, known as pitted and non-pitted edema:

  • Pitted edema occurs when, after pressure is applied to a swollen area, a pit forms for 5 seconds or more before slowly re-inflating. This is most common among women who are pre-menstrual or pre-menopausal, but can also occur in patients who have serious heart, liver, or kidney diseases or conditions.
  • Non-pitted edema is the exact opposite. When pressure is applied the area instantly reforms without the appearance of a pit. This primarily occurs on the arms and legs, and is generally not considered serious.