February 7, 2016

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Swollen Ankles and Swollen Feet

How are swollen ankles and swollen feet diagnosed?

Clinical observation and examination is the way swollen feet and ankles are diagnosed. A health care professional will likely ask questions about the swelling to obtain specific information and gain insight into the underlying cause of the swelling; once the cause is determined, treatments can be designed to help the patient. Simple observation and a patient's verbal description of the swollen area may be enough to presumptively diagnose the cause. For example:

  • a swollen ankle that the patient "twisted" a day ago is probably due a sprain;
  • a swollen foot that is warm with reddish skin in a person with diabetes, with a small cut on the foot is likely caused by an infection;
  • a bilateral foot and ankle swelling in a cardiac patient who did not take the prescribed diuretics is probably caused by a combination of dependent edema, poor fluid management and decreased cardiac function.

Laboratory tests are usually not used to diagnose feet and ankle swelling; however, they may be needed to be ordered in some patients to help diagnose underlying causes of the swelling. Continue Reading

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Reviewed on 7/15/2015