Medical Q&As

Swollen ankles - due to high blood pressure?

My grandfather is 68 years old. He has a leaky heart valve and high blood pressure. He also suffers with such severe swelling of the feet and lower legs that he has gone up two shoe sizes. He says it hurts, but he doesn’t like going to the doctor. He also has tightness in the head. Are these things serious? Should he visit his GP?

Your grandfather should visit his GP in order to have his condition evaluated. The swollen ankles you refer to sounds like oedema, which can be a sign of heart failure. Your grandfather is at risk of developing heart failure because he has a leaking heart valve and high blood pressure. Heart failure means that the heart is not pumping efficiently, which can lead to fluid accumulating in various parts of the body including the lungs and the ankles. If blood pressure is not adequately controlled this can cause further pressure on the heart because it has to work much harder to pump the blood into a high pressure system. Reducing the blood pressure can have a very significant and beneficial impact on heart failure. Diuretics or fluid tablets are frequently used to treat swollen ankles and they are also used for reducing blood pressure. The tightness in the head that you refer to could also be related to high blood pressure. Your grandfather’s situation is not necessarily serious but it could become so over time should he fail to have his condition properly assessed.