Sitting up for long hours, especially during long haul of flights is often a cause of swollen ankles.
If a woman is on birth control pills, the estrogen present in these pills can lead to water retention. If the valves in the veins of the legs are weakened, it results in inefficient return of blood to the heart, causing retention. Certain ailments like cardiomyopathy, kidney diseases, heart ailments, liver diseases, gout, ankle arthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis also cause edema and swelling in the feet. Consumption of food high in sodium also causes water retention, which in fact is the most common cause of water retention.
Many people are not aware that deficiency of vitamin B1 (thiamine) is also known to cause swelling in the ankles, due to water retention.
If the swelling remains persistent for a long period, you may not want to neglect it and do visit your physician immediately. Disclaimer: This Buzzle article is for informative purposes only, and does not intend to be considered as a replacement for an expert medical advice. Apart from the system of blood vessels, there is another network of vessels in the human body: it is called the lymphatic system and consists of lymphatic vessels, lymphatic nodes and lymphatic organs. If the vessels are no longer able to drain the lymph, which is produced from the interstitial fluid, persistent oedema may develop . Oedema: Accumulation of abnormal quantities of fluid in the intercellular space in the tissues or in a body cavity, caused by inflammation, impaired or overloaded venous or lymphatic circulation, heart failure or impaired renal function. A solution to lymph oedema is drainage therapy, focusing on maintenance of the lymphatic and venous circulation and drainage of accumulated oedemas.
The severity of lymphoedema ranges from a mild swelling of the feet resolving spontaneously on rest to elephant's foot.

Moreover, fluid retention may be caused due to varied reasons, ranging from an injury, to a heart problem.
In some people, it is being observe that if they sit up all night long, their ankles swell.
Due to the gravitational force, the fluid in the body is pooled in the tissues of the lower part of the legs, causing ankle swelling (water retention). People who are on drugs for depression, diabetes, high blood pressure, corticosteroids or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, normally suffer from swollen legs. After injury, the next common cause is infection around the ankle joint or in the ankle joint itself.
When you exercise, it helps the veins in the leg to work against gravity and return the blood back to the heart. You can choose to walk as a form of exercise, as it will exercise the leg muscles and prevent fluid accumulation and retention.
Visit your healthcare professional if you have decreased urine output, fever, and if your feet are warm to touch, as these may have some serious underlying conditions. Lymph secreted in the tissues is transported through the lymphatic system and the major lymphatic branches to the venous system. The reason is, the muscles become inactive and are unable to pump fluid back towards the heart. When the fluid is not pulled back towards the heart, it accumulates in the leg causing swelling. If there is protein deficiency, there will be an insufficient amount of water in the body, which will attract water from the tissue back into the capillaries, giving rise to water retention. Lymphatic movement is triggered by the pressure of tissue fluids, active contractions of lymph vessel walls as well as pressure from adjacent organs and muscles.

Two to four litres of excess water, proteins, dead cells, foreign bodies and fat are drained from the connective tissue. In addition to swelling of the ankles, there can be accumulation of water under the skin, due to which there may be an indent in the skin, when one holds it for a few seconds.
Sleeping with the legs up against the wall will prove to be of help in reducing the swelling.
If this filtering function is impaired, the body will not be able to get rid of the accumulated wastes, the immune system will not be able to fight the increasing load, thus giving rise to recurrent infections. However, in some other cases, there will be no indent at all, which also points towards fluid retention.
Some of the physicians may also prescribe diuretics to help you get rid of water retention. Depending on the amount of water retention and swelling, you will have to choose the correct one for yourself. It is the lymphatic system, which is responsible for flushing out of the fluid from the tissues and divert it back into the bloodstream.
Using a leg wedge while sleeping; so that your legs are raised above the level of the body, will also help to reduce the swelling.
This leads to water retention either all over the body or in certain body parts only, like ankles, hands, eye, etc.

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