Why Do I Have Swollen Feet? Causes and Treatments
Published: December 28, 2020
Last modified: February 11, 2021
Did your feet just go from a size 8 to an 8.5? What gives?
Swelling in your feet happens to everyone from time to time to varying degrees. Swollen feet are often caused by standing for long periods of time, or after extending exercise such as walking or running. When your on your feet, gravity pulls blood towards your feet and there can be certain degrees of pooling.
The actual source of swelling (known by its medical term edema) is attributed to your small blood vessels leaking fluid into nearby tissues.
Causes of Swollen Feet
Like many foot conditions, possible causes are wide-ranging. If you find your feet ballooning, and are concerned, look out for any of these causes:
- Pregnancy: A common symptom of late pregnancy is for feet and ankles to swell. This swelling comes from fluid retention and increased pressure on the veins.
- Sedentary lifestyle: A lifestyle with little exercise means that excess fluid accumulates in the feet.
- Being overweight
- Wearing ill-fitting shoes: Wearing tight shoes can put pressure on your feet and reduce circulation to the area. This pressure can encourage pooling of fluid in your legs rather than the blood flow you want to aim for in reducing swollen feet and legs.
- Hot weather: In fact, studies show that Google search trends for ankle swelling are greatest in spring and summer indicating a pattern among the general population. This is due to greater liquid retention in hot weather. In fact, the study found that, “Internet searches for information on ankle swelling are highly seasonal (highest in midsummer), with seasonality explaining 86% of search volume variability.” Although this is not directly related to cases of ankle swelling, it’s well-documented that Internet searches accurately reflect trends in the population.
- Alcohol: Since your body retains more water when drinking, alcohol consumption can cause swollen feet. If you find your feet are consistently swollen when consuming alcohol, it could be a sign that you’re drinking too much (or too often), or it could be a sign of problems with your liver or kidney.
- Blood clots: Blood clots in the lower legs can trap fluid in the foot and ankle area as it limits the return flow to other parts of your leg and body.
How Do You Reduce Swelling In The Feet?
Fortunaely there are many DIY methods for treating swollen feet. Even better, some of these at-home methods are inexpensive, and highly effective. These include:
- Soak your feet in cool water.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Wear shoes that allow your feet to breathe and move freely.
- Rest with your legs elevated.
- Wear compression stockings/compression gear.
- Do a few minutes of walking and simple leg exercises: If you sit for long periods of time, make an effort to get up once an hour for a short walk. Even if this is to refill your water bottle or go to the washroom, these regular breaks help with circulation and reduce the pooling in your lower legs.
When Should I Be Concerned About Swollen Feet?
Generally, if you can trace swollen feet back to a specific activity, like hot weather, or standing, then there is little cause for concern. If swelling is a perpetual problem, then you may want to seek medical help to determine the root cause of the condition.
There are a number of foot conditions that can be a greater cause for concern than basic edema.
Types of edema
- Peripheral edema. It could be a sign of problems with your circulatory system, lymph nodes, or kidneys.
- Pedal edema.It’s more common if you’re older or pregnant. It can make it harder to move around in part because you may not have as much feeling in your feet.
- Lymphedema. This type of edema is often causes damage to your lymph nodes, which are tissues that that help filter germs and waste from your body. The damage may be the result of cancer treatments like surgery and radiation.
Blood clots are of great concern. Not only do blood clots cause swelling in your legs (and in other parts of your body), these clots can be life-threatening. If not addressed, a blood clots can travel to the heart and lungs and be fatal. Watch for specific signs of blood clots including swelling in one leg, a low-grade fever, and even possible changes in colours to your affected legs. Call your doctor immediately if you suspect this foot condition, even if it’s just to be safe.
Can high blood pressure cause swollen feet?
Swollen feet can be a side effect of certain drugs meant for treating diabetes. For example, calcium-channel blockers for treating high blood pressure may be a culprit. You may want to ask your doctor about dosage and the type of medication if you find that the swelling is out of control or bothersome. (Swollen feet can add not insignificant weight to your body, and make walking difficult.)
People with diabetes also have an increased risk of infection, which can cause swollen feet.
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