I just posted a health chart that my aunt sent to me. One of the reasons I truly believe in the benefits of foods and herbal/vitamin supplements is because I have been my own "test rat!" LOL. Here is something that happened to me recently:
I woke up one morning at the end of last month with my right ankle slightly swollen and feeling sore. I joked on Facebook that I had managed to sprain my ankle in my sleep. That day and for the next day, my ankle remained sore and puffy. After a couple of days, the LEFT ankle started up.
Both ankles got more and more swollen over the next few days. One of my nieces teased that I now had "cankles." That was funny for about 10 minutes, but gradually, my ankles hurt bad enough that I had trouble walking normally. My feet started to swell also. The skin felt feverish and was uncomfortable to the extent that I kept the covers off them at night.
Of course, I was starting to get worried.
Now, not having health insurance at the moment (and never having needed it before except for checkups, etc), I had to do my own research. Thank God for the Internet...
First, I searched on "swollen ankles," then I tried searching for information on "swollen ankles and feet," throwing in filters such as "causes of," "as symptom of," etc.
I came up with different common possible causes: congestive heart failure, sprains, gout...
I can't remember right now just how I got to a page that put me on the right track, but: my chronic anemia (which I was aware of) was a possible cause.
Apparently, my low iron level was the culprit.
I was diagnosed as anemic when I was very young. Of course, when I was younger, I had my mother around to make sure I got the right foods to solve the problem: spinach, lima beans (yuck!), beef liver, beets and broccoli... All the foods kids just love, right? LOL... Mama even let me have sips of red wine (she'd heard about that being good for anemics) and she made sure that I was limited on "soda pop" and other sugary foods (I think the doctors gave her some reason to do that).
When I got older and more in control of my own diet (read that as "teenager"), I upped the bad foods (Mama didn't know about all the gallons of Dr. Pepper I was slurping!) and gradually got away from the "good" foods. When I really thought I was grown - yeah, you know! - I developed HORRIBLE eating habits. I was one of those "skinny heffas" who could eat three loaves of bread, deep-fried in butter and covered with a warm Snickers bar and lose more calories chewing that I did by eating the food.
And my problems began.
I was constantly fatigued (and had fatiguing jobs!) and had miserable menstrual problems. I had trouble concentrating and my moods could be whoozy...
So. When I was around 35 or so, I started getting every cold and virus that went around. I was so tired that I felt like I was struggling just to get through the day. I went to the doctor who did blood work. When he got the results back, he was shook! He was scared to let me drive home. (Understand that I have a high fear of being hospitalized.) In lieu of going to the hospital, I promised the doctor that I would go home and get off my feet and IMMEDIATELY start the regimen of iron he put me on. He gave me some kind of shot and written instructions for taking the iron: something like 3 tablets three times a day for X amount of days, then 2 a day for X amount of days.... On and on until I was down to 1 tablet 3 times a day. ForEVER!!! He made me promise to come back for follow-up lab work in a few weeks and to call him if I felt anything out of whack.
Yeah, yeah, yeah...
I did take the iron pills. Well, okay - I took at least ONE of the at least ONCE a day. Mostly I just forgot. I think I lost the paper with the dosing instructions. LOL.
Fast forward to me being 49 and dealing with too much else in life to remember to take an aspirin if I had a headache, and... I let the anemia creep back in.
Because I do keep vitamins and herbal supplements on hand, and because I do actually take some of them, I did have iron pills around. Within ONE day of taking just TWO iron pills three times a day, the swelling in my ankles and feet started to abate. The pain was completely gone by the beginning of the third day. Now - it's been about a week and a half that I started the iron. All the pain is gone, most of the swelling is gone. All because I took my iron pills...
Here's the scary part (other than the fact that there are people with more serious health problems who can't go to a doctor...): Had I NOT figured out the problem. Had I just let this thing run its course, this is what could have progressed (according to the faq on womenshealth.gov):
Some types of anemia may be life threatening if not diagnosed and treated. Too little oxygen in the body can damage organs. With anemia, the heart must work harder to make up for the lack of red blood cells or hemoglobin. This extra work can harm the heart and even lead to heart failure.
Yeah. So I am a firm believer in doing what you can to look after yourself. Please talk to your doctor (if you have one), do your own research, ask questions and - most important of all - don't let things go to far when you even just THINK something might be wrong...
Peace (and good health)