Swollen Feet and Ankles

It can be troubling to look down as you slip your shoe on your foot and find swollen feet and ankles. Finding out the cause and what to do about the problem should be your next step. Find out how hypothyroidism can affect your feet and ankles, and the rest of your body as well.

Determine the cause

It is crucial to know the reason behind swollen feet and ankles. Several dangerous conditions can cause this type of swelling. Once your doctor determines the exact cause, you can begin effective and safe treatment. Your doctor will perform a physical exam, ask you health questions and send you for blood work. A common cause of swollen feet and ankles is the condition of the thyroid gland known as hypothyroidism.

What is the thyroid?

The thyroid is part of the endocrine system. It is a butterfly-shaped gland located in the neck. This gland produces hormones. Thyroxine (or T4) and thriiodothyronine (T3) stimulate important processes in every part of the human body. The roles of these thyroid hormones include: growth, use of energy and oxygen, heat production, fertility, the body's use of vitamins, proteins, carbohydrates, fats, electrolytes, and water and the immune function.

Hypothyroidism and swelling

Before medical knowledge was as replete as it is today, Victorian surgeons would treat patients for various maladies by removing the thyroid gland. It was after many such surgeries that a pattern developed and was recognized.

People who had their thyroid gland removed developed very puffy faces, eyes, feet and hands. According to the New York Times Health Guide, the lack of thyroid hormone was correctly blamed, and the condition was called myxedema. If hypothyroidism is left untreated, cautions the National Institutes of Health (NIH), it can lead to swelling in the feet, ankles and face. If your medication isn't properly adjusted this swelling may occur as well.

Treating swollen feet and ankles

Hypothyroidism and the swelling due to excess fluid from hypothyroidism should be treated with a thyroid hormone replacement drug. This medication, when prescribed in the correct dosage, will alleviate the swelling in the feet and ankles. Regardless of the cause, swelling feet and ankles can be treated with common management techniques. According to NIH, swelling feet and ankle treatments include:

  • Lie down and elevate your legs above your heart.
  • Exercise. This helps circulation.
  • Stand up and move around often.
  • Reduce fluid buildup and swelling by limiting sodium intake.
  • Use support hose.
  • Avoid wearing anything tight around the thighs.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Drink plenty of water to prevent water retention.
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