Don't Ignore a Swollen and Painful Ankle

I saw a longtime patient this week who came in because of a painful, swollen ankle for about two weeks. She didn't remember twisting it, but probably did. Or maybe, she said, it was a stress fracture. Took an x-ray and everything looked okay there.

Everything didn't seem okay though. She is an elderly woman and has a certain amount of swelling in her foot and ankle, but this was different. I told her that I wanted her to have another test...a Doppler evaluation of her veins. She tried to talk me out of it, but ended up agreeing to it.

I'm glad I pushed her. The next day I received a phone call from the radiologist who informed me that she had a Deep Venous Thrombosis, known as a DVT or "economy class syndrome," since it effects people on long, cramped airplane trips. It is a blood clot that forms in the deep veins. This is a medical emergency, since it can break loose and travel to the lungs, called a Pulmonary Embolism. There, it can be lethal.

Too often we write off things that we are experiencing. We convince ourselves that it's minor and will go away on it's own. It's always best to get it checked out just in case. It may very well be nothing. On the off chance that it is a problem, as it was for this patient, the visit to the doctor could very well save your life.
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