What are Swollen Feet?
Swollen feet happen when your feet become larger or rounder in size. This is typically as a result of an accumulation of fluid. It can be a sign of illness or injury.
You often find this will affect your ankles as well.
Many people get swollen feet. It is not a condition in itself but rather a symptom of an underlying issue.
There are many causes for this sometimes painful and uncomfortable swelling. It is generally temporary but can also be a cause for concern.
Numerous factors can cause our feet to swell. Some are innocuous and others require immediate medical attention. We will look at the range of possible causes for swollen feet.
This is the term used to describe swelling due to fluid retention. This can happen for many reasons.
Sitting too long at a desk at work or a flight on a airplane causes your feet to become puffy. It can also happen if you stand for too long.
It is common for women when premenstrual to experience edema.
This type of swelling is usually temporary and goes away without medical treatment. (1)
Majority of pregnant women will have edema at some point of their pregnancy.
Throughout a normal pregnancy the total amount of water in the body can increase by up to 6-8 litres. (2)
Whilst uncomfortable edema in itself poses no threat. You may find it happens more after spending a day on your feet.
It can however be a sign of a complication called pre eclampsia. This happens when you have too much protein in your urine and high blood pressure. This causes the feet and other parts of the body to swell. (3)
If the swelling is sudden and accompanied by headache, nausea, abdominal pain or visual disturbances you should seek immediate medical advice.
There are many drugs that can cause swelling in the feet. These include antibiotics, blood pressure medication and anti-inflammatories.
Medications for other conditions like cancer and diabetes can also cause swelling. (4)
Injuries to the feet such as broken bones, sprains and strains can cause swelling. These are among the most common injuries suffered by active people and athletes. (6)
You might feel redness and heat in the area of the injury. This is caused by increased blood flow. Swelling results as increased fluid and white blood cells flow into the injured area. (7)
The lymphatic system is a network of vessels and glands situated throughout our body. They are responsible for fighting infection and removing fluids from the body.
When this system does not function properly swelling can occur. This is generally in the limbs, hands and feet.
It is a common side effect of treatment for certain types of cancer. The lymph nodes may be damaged or removed. These include breast and penile cancer. (8)
Swollen feet can be caused by some diseases. These include the heart, kidney, lungs and liver.
As a result of congestive heart failure, the heart will fail to pump blood around the body properly. This causes an increase in blood pressure leading to a build up of fluid in the legs or abdomen. (9)
Part of the function of the kidneys is to remove sodium and fluid from the body. If they don’t function as they should swelling can occur. (10)
Scarring of the tissue in the liver can cause increased pressure in the blood vessels. This can be escalated by long term alcohol abuse. It leads to swelling in the feet. (11)
Chronic venous insufficiency and varicose veins cause swelling in the lower limbs and feet. The valves in the veins don’t work efficiently and fail to pump blood back to the heart from the lower legs and feet. (14)
Cellulitis is a bacterial infection that affects the deep layers of the skin if it breaks. It may be caused by an insect bite or cut. It may be as a result of dry cracked skin. This causes infection and swelling. (15)
People who have diabetes are prone to infection from ulcers and abrasions. Their ability to heal is impaired and even the smallest cut can cause complications. Infections of this nature can have serious implications. It’s the infection that causes the swelling. (16)
A blood clot can cause blockage of a vein. This in turn causes swelling, particularly in the lower leg and feet of the affected limb. You may hear this referred to as thrombosis or deep vein thrombosis. (17)
Gout happens when there is a build up of uric acid in your body. This forms crystals that can collect around a joint. This causes pain and swelling. It often occurs in the big toe. (18)
One of the first symptoms you are likely to see is that one or both of your feet look larger than normal. If you press the skin it will leave a temporary indent.
Your foot may feel heavy. The skin can feel tight and warm to the touch.
Affected joints such as your toes can be hard to move. Your footwear or socks will also feel tight.
You might feel pain or tightness in the area around the swelling. (19)
If you have an infection you may also feel feverish and see blisters on the skin. A cut may be angry and red and exude pus. (20)
Swelling accompanied by chest pain or a shortness of breath can be serious. You need to seek immediate medical help. It could be a sign of heart failure. (21)
Swelling is something that may go away by itself. For example, if you have been on your feet too long, resting and putting your feet up can often resolve the issue.
If the swelling is prolonged then you need to see your doctor.
They will give you a physical examination to try and determine the cause of the swelling.
The doctor will ask you about your symptoms. They may ask about your diet and your medical history. Tell them about any tablets you may be taking.
Let them know if you have suffered an injury or anything that could be causing infection.
The doctor may require further tests to find out if there is an underlying cause for the swelling. These can include blood or urine tests, liver and kidney function tests, x-rays or an ECG.(22)
What are swollen feet? If your feet are swollen they become larger or rounder in size. This is usually a result of an accumulation of fluid. It can be a sign of illness or injury.
What causes swollen feet? There are many reasons why your feet may swell. It can be fluid retention after sitting or standing for prolonged periods. It can be the effects of infection or injury. There are also underlying causes like diseases. These include the heart, kidneys, liver or lungs and can be serious.
How do doctors test for swollen feet? A doctor will give you a physical examination. They will look at your medical history. If they are unable to establish the cause they will ask for further medical tests.
When should you go to the doctors with swollen feet? If your symptoms persist for more than a few days seek medical help. Painful swelling accompanied by other factors like shortness of breath, fever or chills are serious. If this is the case it is an medical emergency. Be particularly aware of unusual or sudden swelling if you are in the later stages of pregnancy.
Can you prevent swollen feet? Provided there are no underlying medical issues that need a doctors attention there are things you can do to prevent swelling. You can limit your salt intake. If you are overweight, losing those excess pounds can help. Regular exercise can help improve circulation, as can putting your feet up more often. (23)
What can relieve swollen feet? Compression socks can help, especially when flying. Lying with a pillow under your feet will lessen swelling related to fluid build up. It will make you more comfortable.(24,25)
Can swollen feet be treated? There are treatments available to reduce swelling. Particularly in the case of infection or injury. Determining the cause of swelling means that doctors can prescribe the correct medications. This can help bring the swelling under control.(26)
Are there natural remedies for swollen feet? Buckwheat herbal tea has shown to be effective in preventing swelling in patients with chronic venous insufficiency. Dandelion has a diuretic affect and can reduce fluid retention.(27,28)
Swollen feet look larger and rounder in size than normal. This is usually as a result of fluid retention.
Fluid retention can be caused by many things. These include prolonged sitting or standing, injury, infection or underlying medical conditions. Pregnant women are also prone to having swollen feet.
When your feet are swollen there is usually a reason for it. A medical examination can determine the cause and treatment can be given accordingly. It could just be a simple case of adjusting your diet and exercise and putting your feet up more often.