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Ankle Sprain (cont.)

Ankle Sprain Symptoms and Signs

Tissue injury and inflammation occur when an ankle is sprained. Blood vessels become "leaky" and allow fluid to ooze into the soft tissue surrounding the joint. White blood cells responsible for inflammation migrate to the area, and blood flow increases. The following are signs and symptoms of inflammation:

  • Swelling: Due to increased fluid in the tissue, this is sometimes severe.
  • Pain: The nerves are more sensitive. The joint hurts and may throb. The pain can worsen when the sore area is pressed or the foot moves in certain directions (depending upon which ligament is involved) and during walking or standing.


  • Redness and warmth: caused by increased blood flow to the area

When to Seek Medical Care fo an Ankle Sprain

Usually, an ankle sprain itself does not require a trip to the doctor. The problem is how to tell a sprain from a more serious injury such as a fracture (break). If any of the following occur, contact your doctor.

  • Pain is uncontrolled, despite the used of over-the-counter medications, elevation, and ice.


  • The injured person is unable to walk or cannot walk more than a few steps without severe pain.
  • The ankle fails to improve within five to seven days. The pain need not be gone, but it should be improving.

The indications to go to a hospital's emergency department are similar to those for which to call the doctor. The following conditions suggest a fracture or more serious injury or that a splint may be needed for pain control:

  • There is severe or uncontrolled pain.


  • The injured ankle cannot be moved.


  • The foot or ankle is misshapen beyond normal swelling.


  • The injured person cannot walk four steps, even with a limp.


  • Severe pain felt when pressing over the medial or lateral malleolus, the bony bumps on each side of the ankle.


  • There is loss of feeling in the foot or toes.


  • There is pain and swelling in the back of the ankle (heel pain), over the Achilles tendon area, or the inability to push the toes down (forward-like pressing a gas pedal).


  • There is pain or swelling into the upper part of the lower leg just below the knee or swelling of the calf muscle.


  • Redness or red streaks spreading out from the injury are observed.


  • You don't know how serious the injury may be or are unsure how to care for it.

Ankle Sprain Diagnosis

The doctor will perform a physical exam to see if a fracture or other serious injury has happened that requires immediate care.

  • The examination should check that the nerves or arteries to the foot have not been injured and that the knee or the rest of the leg is not involved.
    • The doctor will handle and move the foot and ankle to determine what bony areas are involved.


    • The Achilles tendon will be checked for signs of rupture.


  • X-rays are often needed to confirm if a fracture is present. In some cases of fracture, a CT scan may be needed.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/18/2016

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