Ankle Swelling Diagnosis

Written by andrea helaine
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Having a correct diagnosis for ankle swelling is essential to receiving the right treatment. Ankle swelling is caused when fluid accumulates around the joint and soft tissue. Swelling of the ankle can occur because of a systemic disease or condition that affects the entire body or from an infection or a localised injury. The cause of ankle swelling can often be determined through simple diagnostic testing that is minimally invasive.


Arthritis in the ankles can be painful and can either be caused be a degenerative disease of the bone, such as osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis or as a result of injury to the ankle. If you have sustained an injury to your ankle, it may have damaged the tissue, cartilage, bone or blood flow and lead to swelling.

Blood Clots

Blood clots can impair the function of the blood flow throughout the body or in a specific area. It normally occurs in one leg and can lead to swelling in the leg, foot or ankle. Blood clots can cause swelling, pain and warmth of the ankle, foot or leg.


Oedema is a problem in the circulatory system that can cause chronic swelling because of inflammation. This is a common condition during pregnancy and is most commonly seen in both legs. If it is only in one leg, it may be a sign of a blood clot.


Gout is when crystals accumulate in the fluid around the ankle. Although this is a waste material that is produced during digestion, it can accumulate around joints, which leads to pain, inflammation and swelling.


Infections that occur in the joint or in the soft tissues and can cause ankle swelling. Infections of the ankle are not common, but can normally be treated with medication. If the infection has spread throughout the ankle, surgery might be necessary in the treatment process because damaged cartilage does not regenerate.


Injuries such as sprains, torn muscles or ligaments, and broken ankles are common causes of a swollen ankle. Injury is normally easy to diagnose because the patient remembers the cause of the injury. However, a stress fracture in the ankle or lower leg may involve injury over time and therefore be more difficult to diagnose.


A doctor will begin by taking a medical history and provide a medical examination, which will help rule out other health conditions. This is essential because it is important to find the underlying cause of ankle swelling to determine what treatment plan is appropriate.

Some medications, such as hormone replacement therapy, birth control pills, blood pressure medication, steroids and antidepressants often have the side effect of swelling. It is important that your physician be made aware of any medications you are currently taking and the amounts to determine if medication is a contributing factor.

X-rays are normally ordered if there was an injury involved and they can also help to rule out other medical conditions. In some cases, more detail is needed, so a CAT scan or a DVT ultrasound may be used to examine the veins in the leg to detect clots.

A blood test analysis and urinalysis might be conducted if an infection or gout is suspected. If a blood clot is being considered, an ultrasound might be ordered to determine the size and location of the clot. A physician might also order an ECG to determine if there is a cardiovascular problem.

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