How Foot and Ankle Swelling is Linked to Varicose Veins

October 21, 2020 Dr Zil

Swollen aching feet, redness and the dreaded cankles. All of these are familiar, especially after a day of walking or standing. While there is a range of reasons why these symptoms occur, such as injury, excess weight or pregnancy, one of the most common reasons for foot and ankle swelling is linked to varicose veins.

While you might be tempted to ignore the swelling as just getting older or something your body does, it can be an indicator of vein weakness and venous insufficiency which often occur alongside varicose veins. To help understand what’s happening and how you can treat it to not only stop the swelling but also reduce your chances of developing varicose veins, we’ve outlined how it happens, and how it can be treated.

How foot and ankle swelling is linked to varicose veins

Varicose veins develop when the veins are no longer able to pump blood up the legs sufficiently, this usually happens because the veins are weak and unable to create adequate pressure, causing blood to reflux. When this damage occurs, it often leads to bulging veins and spider veins in the legs. However, if it occurs in veins deeper in the leg, it can be harder to notice.

A similar thing happens with oedema, as the blood flows down into the feet and ankles, but the smallest of the blood vessels, your capillaries, leak fluid out into the surrounding tissue. This occurs when the vein walls are too weak to keep the blood flowing as they are varicosed.

While varicose veins don’t directly cause swelling in the ankles and feet, it’s not unusual for underlying issues that aggravate veins to then cause oedema in the ankles. Swelling in the legs, feet and ankles can be caused by varicose veins in a condition known as phlebolymphoedema. If you find that the swelling in your legs is chronic and you have varicose veins, it’s worth talking to your doctor about it as it can be reversed.

How do I stop foot and ankle swelling?

Fluid building up and swelling in your ankles and feet isn’t just uncomfortable and unsightly, it can be symptomatic of underlying health issues. Managing and minimising this swelling helps to improve your lifestyle and general health. To get on top of your ankles and feet and keep everything flowing in the right direction, we’ve outlined three easy ways to tackle your ankle swelling now and in the long-term

Compression Stockings: Wearing medical-grade compression stockings (class 2 compression minimum) on a daily basis helps to boost the blood flow in your legs, helping the muscles and veins to pump blood and excess fluid out of the ankles and feet and back up to the heart and body to process it. This also works to minimise the development of varicose veins and is great for your legs in general.

Movement & Exercise: Regular exercise has a two-fold positive effect on swelling in your ankles and feet. Keeping the muscles active helps your body move everything around more and get fluid out of built-up areas, while a long-term benefit of regular exercise is weight loss, which reduces the strain on your veins and joints. Learn more: Exercise & varicose veins: everything you need to know.

Keeping regular movement when seated for extended periods of time (E.g. Working at a desk, travelling in a plane or long car trips), is crucial. When you stay still, your blood flow slows down and pools in unhealthy veins for those with varicose veins. Get up and walk about a little, stretch and move the ankles and calves every 20-30 minutes.

Diet: It’s important to reduce salt, fat and sugar from your diet, as these all lead to an excess build-up of fluid in your lower body and can cause complications to those with varicose veins. Keeping regularly hydrated is a good way to help your body process the salt in your body and keep the levels healthy.

Diagram of a normal functioning vein with healthy vein valves, a varicose vein with damaged vein valves and then an image of how the varicose vein looks when compressed by wearing medical-grade compression stockings.

Seek expert advice

The doctors at The Vein Institute specialise in varicose vein treatment. We offer patients a comprehensive treatment program to treat varicose veins, with non-surgical laser treatment techniques. The benefits of laser treatment to patients are;

  • Walk-in walk-out treatment
  • 98% success rate
  • Extremely effective
  • Can be performed at a clinic (no hospitalisation)
  • No general anaesthetic
  • Medicare rebates apply
  • No downtime or time away from work

To book a consultation and discuss our treatment program, call  1300 535 017. Or, make an enquiry via the Contact Us page.