Peripheral edema or swelling of the foot is caused by all the underlying factors that cause ankles and legs to swell from the pooling of blood or fluid in the foot area.
Common Causes of Swelling in Feet
Swelling in the feet can result from:
- Medical conditions.
The swelling can result from fluid retention or poor circulation because of damage to the blood vessels or other factors.
Edema: Excess Fluid Trapped in Tissues
The tissues directly under the skin look puffy and swollen. The skin may look stretched and shiny, and when you press on it, a dimple remains. Swollen feet make it difficult for you to walk.
If you are standing all day, then your feet naturally swell - when buying shoes, it is suggested that you try them on later in the day because this swelling increases your shoe size. Most edema goes away when you take the weight of your feet. If you regularly get swollen feet, you can try:
- Consuming less salt in your diet.
- Drinking more water.
- Elevating your feet above your heart as often as possible.
- Wearing support socks.
- Taking a diuretic.
- Checking your prescription medications.
Pregnancy brings extra weight and the pressure of supporting a growing baby. Most women suffer from swollen feet during pregnancy at some stage.
In addition to the treatment for edema, you can:
- Stand less.
- Avoid hot conditions because heat contributes to the swelling.
- Avoid high heels and opt for comfortable shoes.
- Use cold compresses.
- Hang around in the swimming pool - removes pressure and supports your weight.
Alcohol, along with other health impacts, can result in swollen feet because of fluid retention. Frequent swelling in the feet after drinking alcohol may indicate problems with your organs - heart, liver, or kidneys. It may also mean your alcohol consumption is excessive and problematic.
To reduce alcohol related foot swelling, drink more, and consume less salt. You can also try soaking your feet in cold water.
In hot weather or anything else that causes your feet to get hot, your feet may swell. The veins expand to try to cool you down, and this can result in fluid in nearby tissue or pooling if you have poor circulation. Cooling and exercising your feet help to alleviate the symptoms and reduce swelling.
Damage or removal of your lymph nodes (some cancer treatment) causes your body to retain lymphatic fluid. Your feet are the lowest part of your body and can swell as a result. Other symptoms include:
- Your feet feel tight and heavy.
- You can't move your feet easily.
- Your feet ache.
- You get lots of repeat infections.
- Your skin gets thicker - fibrosis.
There is no cure for lymphedema because you can reverse the damage or put back the lymph nodes. The best you can do is manage the condition with pain relief and action to reduce the swelling in your feet.
Actions you can take include:
- Exercises to drain the lymph fluid from your feet.
- Wrapping the foot in bandages.
- Manually massage.
- Active compression.
- Decongestive therapy.
Chronic Venous Insufficiency
The valves in your veins can become damaged from prolonged sitting and standing. If they don't work as well as they should, your blood circulation suffers, and pooling blood leads to swelling. As well as the swelling, you may see flakey, itchy skin, and ulcers. Early diagnosis leads to better outcomes. Treatment usually involves changes in how you treat your feet:
- Good skin hygiene - to avoid infections.
- Antibiotics - to treat current skin infections.
- Compression stockings - to discourage blood from pooling.
- Elevation - gravity assisted drainage.
- Weight loss - to reduce pressure on feet.
- Not standing for long periods.
- Exercising the feet and walking to improve circulation.
Along with other problems, the retention of water can result in swelling in your feet. Your doctor will advise on medication and dietary changes to treat the kidney disease. If you manage your kidney disease, you will have fewer problems with your feet.
Problems with your liver result in fluid retention and foot swelling. You can damage your liver by substance abuse, obesity, viruses, and some genetic causes. If you treat your liver disease, you reduce the swelling in your feet.
Blood clots are solid masses of blood that can form in your veins and impeded blood flow. If the swelling in the foot is the result of a blood clot, you expect only one foot to be impacted, depending on where the clot forms. You may also feel pain or tenderness and see a reddening of the skin.
If you are at risk of blood clots, your doctor will advise preventive measures like:
- Lifestyle changes - better diet, lose weight.
- Increase your fluid intake.
- Exercise more and sit less.
- Medication - blood thinners.
Your feet can become infected and inflamed from injury or with a nerve condition like diabetic neuropathy leaving your feet more infection-prone. Most infections are treatable with antibiotics taken orally or applied to the infection site.
Some medications result in fluid collecting in and swelling your feet. Some of the medicines most likely to cause swelling in your feet as a side effect are:
- Contraceptive pills
- Blood pressure medication.
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories.
- Diabetes medication.
- ACE inhibitors.
It's best to discuss your swollen feet with your doctor who can advise changes to your dosage, other medication, or perhaps the use of a diuretic to deal with the excess fluid as appropriate.
Most people expect chest pain as a sign of heart failure. Many symptoms result from your heart failing to pump blood the way it should - swollen feet are one of them. Immediate medical attention is essential in heart failure, and you will need to manage your condition for the rest of your life. You have a range of treatment options from medicine, surgery, and inserting medical devices like pacemakers and replacement valves.
When Do You Need to See a Doctor to Treat Your Swollen Feet?
Everyone suffers from swelling in the feet in some circumstances. There are some indications that your feet swelling needs the attention of a doctor:
- Persistence of pain and swelling - normal foot swelling goes down if you put your feet up and rest.
- Dimple remains after pressure - if you press on the swelling with a finger for 15-20 seconds, the skin normally bounces back. If a dimple remains, then talk to your physician.
- Stretched or broken skin on your feet along with the swelling.
- Blisters or ulcers on your leg.
- You are finding it hard to breathe or panting as if you have exerted yourself.
- Tightness, pressure, or full chest pains.
- Only one foot is swelling.
Most foot swelling is straightforward to sort out, but sometimes it points to an underlying medical condition or issue needing attention. Your physician or medical professional is the best person to diagnose and treat the causes of your swollen feet.
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