What’s Causing My Swollen Feet?

Medically reviewed by Deborah Weatherspoon, PhD, RN, CRNA on February 5, 2018Written by Emily Cronkleton on February 5, 2018

Is this cause for concern?

Swollen feet can be caused by factors such as overuse, surgery, or pregnancy. Normally it’s temporary and not a cause for concern. However, since it may be uncomfortable and bothersome, you’ll still want to take measures to reduce swelling. This way you can reduce any pain you’re experiencing and resume your daily activities.

If your feet remain swollen or are accompanied by other symptoms, it could be the sign of another health condition. Continue reading to learn how you can reduce swelling in your feet as well as which health conditions it could indicate.

When to seek emergency medical attention

Some cases of swollen feet require urgent care. Get if you experience the following symptoms along with swollen feet:

  • unexplained, painful swelling of your feet or legs
  • warmth, redness, or inflammation at the affected area
  • swelling that’s accompanied by a fever
  • new foot swelling during a pregnancy
  • shortness of breath
  • swelling of only one limb
  • chest pain, pressure, or tightness

1. Edema

Edema is a common condition where excess fluid is trapped in your body’s tissue. This causes swelling and puffiness of the tissue directly under your skin in your feet, ankles, and legs. It can also affect your hands and arms.

Other include:

  • stretched or shiny skin
  • skin that retains a dimple after you press on it for several seconds
  • increased abdominal size
  • difficulty walking

Often, mild edema goes away on its own. Other treatment options include:

  • reducing your salt intake
  • lying down with your feet and legs higher than your heart
  • practicing
  • wearing support stockings
  • taking diuretic medications
  • adjusting your prescription medications

2. Pregnancy

Some foot swelling is extremely common during pregnancy since your body retains more water and produces more blood and body fluids. You may be more prone to swollen feet in the evening and especially after being on your feet all day. It becomes particularly noticeable from the fifth month until the end of your pregnancy.

To reduce and manage swollen feet during pregnancy:

  • Avoid extended periods of standing.
  • Stay in air conditioning during hot weather.
  • Elevate your feet while resting.
  • Wear comfortable shoes and avoid high heels.
  • Wear supportive tights or stockings.
  • Rest or swim in a pool.
  • Avoid clothing that’s tight around your ankles.
  • Apply a cold compress to the affected areas.
  • Increase your water intake.
  • Avoid or cut back on your salt intake.

Sudden or excessive swelling in your hands and face could be a sign of preeclampsia. This is a serious condition where you develop high blood pressure and protein in the urine. It usually happens after the 20th week of pregnancy.

You may also have:

  • a headache
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • infrequent urination
  • difficulty breathing
  • abdominal pain
  • vision changes

Contact your doctor right away if you experience sudden swelling, especially if it’s accompanied by these other symptoms.

3. Alcohol

Drinking alcohol can lead to swollen feet since your body retains more water after drinking. Usually it will go away within a few days. If the swelling doesn’t subside in this time, it could be cause for concern.

If swelling occurs in your feet frequently when you drink alcohol, it may be a sign of a problem with your liver, heart, or kidneys. This could also be a sign that you’re consuming too much alcohol.

To treat swollen feet due to alcohol consumption:

  • Increase your water intake.
  • Reduce your salt intake.
  • Rest with your feet elevated.
  • Soak your feet in cool water.

4. Hot weather

Swollen feet frequently occur during hot weather since your veins expand as part of your body’s natural cooling process. Fluids go into nearby tissues as part of this process. However, sometimes your veins aren’t able to bring blood back to the heart. This results in fluid collecting in the ankles and feet. People with circulatory problems are especially prone to this.

Here are some natural remedies to reduce swelling:

  • 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 support stockings.
  • Do a few minutes of walking and simple leg exercises.

5. Lymphedema

Lymphedema occurs as a result of lymph nodes that are damaged or removed, often as part of cancer treatment. This causes your body to retain lymphatic fluid and can cause swollen feet.

Other symptoms may include:

  • a feeling of tightness or heaviness
  • limited range of motion
  • aches
  • repeated infections
  • skin thickening (fibrosis)

You can’t cure lymphedema, but you can manage this condition to reduce swelling and control the pain. Severe lymphedema may require surgery.

include:

  • light exercises that encourage lymph fluid drainage
  • bandages for wrapping your foot or leg
  • manual lymph drainage massage
  • pneumatic compression
  • compression garments
  • complete decongestive therapy (CDT)

6. Injury

Foot injuries such as broken bones, strains, and sprains can cause swollen feet. When you hurt your foot, swelling occurs as a result of blood rushing to the affected area.

The is often recommended to treat foot injuries. This method involves:

  • Rest. Rest the affected limb as much as possible, and avoid putting pressure on it.
  • Ice. Ice your foot for 20 minutes at a time throughout the day.
  • Compression. Use a compression bandage to stop swelling.
  • Elevation. Keep your feet lifted as you rest so that they’re above your heart, especially at night.

Depending on the severity of your injury, your doctor may recommend an over-the-counter or prescription pain reliever. You may need to wear a brace or splint. Severe cases may require surgery.

See your doctor if your pain is severe or you’re unable to put any weight on or move your foot. Also seek medical care if you’re experiencing numbness.

7. Chronic venous insufficiency

Chronic venous insufficiency (CVI) is a condition that causes swollen feet due to damaged valves or from standing or sitting for extended periods. This affects blood moving up to your heart from your legs and feet. Blood can collect in the veins of your legs and feet, which leads to swelling.

You may experience the following symptoms:

  • aching or tiredness in the legs
  • new varicose veins
  • leathery looking skin on the legs
  • flaky, itchy skin on the legs or feet
  • stasis or venous stasis ulcers
  • infections

See your doctor if you have signs of venous insufficiency. It’s more easily treatable the earlier it’s diagnosed.

Treatments include:

  • avoiding extended periods of standing or sitting
  • doing leg, feet, and ankle exercises during long periods of sitting
  • taking breaks to elevate your feet during long periods of standing
  • walking and exercising regularly
  • losing weight
  • elevating your legs above heart level while resting
  • wearing compression stockings
  • using antibiotics to treat skin infections
  • practicing good skin hygiene

8. Kidney disease

If you have kidney disease or if your kidneys aren’t working properly, you may have too much salt in your blood. This causes you to retain water, which can lead to swelling in your feet and ankles.

The following symptoms may also be present:

  • difficulty concentrating
  • poor appetite
  • feeling tired and weak
  • having less energy
  • difficulty sleeping
  • muscle twitching and cramping
  • puffy eyes
  • dry, itchy skin
  • increased urination
  • nausea and vomiting
  • chest pain
  • shortness of breath
  • high blood pressure

Treatment options include:

  • high blood pressure medications
  • diuretics
  • cholesterol-lowering medications
  • anemia medications
  • low-protein diet
  • calcium and vitamin D supplements
  • phosphate binder medications

Ultimately, kidney failure may be treated with a kidney transplant or dialysis.

9. Liver disease

Liver disease can cause foot swelling due to the liver not functioning properly. This leads to excess fluid in your legs and feet, which causes swelling. It can be caused by genetic factors. Viruses, alcohol, and obesity are also linked to liver damage.

Other symptoms include:

  • yellowish skin and eyes (jaundice)
  • painful and swollen abdomen
  • itchy skin
  • dark urine
  • pale, bloody, or tar-colored stool
  • fatigue
  • nausea or vomiting
  • poor appetite
  • bruising easily

Treatment options include:

  • weight loss
  • abstaining from alcohol
  • medications
  • surgery

10. Blood clot

Blood clots are solid clumps of blood. They can form in the veins of your legs. This hampers blood flow up to your heart and leads to swollen ankles and feet. Often it occurs on one side of your body.

Swelling may be accompanied by:

  • pain
  • tenderness
  • a warm sensation
  • redness or a change in color in the affected area
  • fever

Treatment options and preventive measures include:

  • taking blood thinners
  • avoiding extended periods of sitting
  • exercising regularly
  • increasing your fluid intake
  • making healthy lifestyle changes

11. Infections

Swollen feet may be caused by infections and the accompanying inflammation. People with diabetic neuropathy or other nerve conditions of the feet are more prone to foot infections. Infections can be caused by wounds such as blisters, burns, and insect bites. You may also experience pain, redness, and irritation.

You may be prescribed oral or topical antibiotics to treat the infection.

12. Medication side effects

Certain can cause swollen feet as a side effect because they cause fluid to collect, especially in the lower part of your body.

These medications include:

If your medications are causing swollen feet, it’s important that you see your doctor. Together you can determine if there are other options in terms of medications or dosages. You may be prescribed a diuretic to help reduce excess fluid.

13. Heart failure

Heart failure happens when your heart isn’t able to pump blood correctly. This can cause swollen feet because your blood isn’t flowing up to your heart correctly. If your ankles swell in the evening, it could a sign of right-sided heart failure. This causes salt and water retention.

You may experience the following symptoms:

  • discomfort when lying down flat
  • faster or abnormal heartbeat
  • sudden, severe shortness of breath
  • coughing up pink, foamy mucus
  • chest pain, pressure, or tightness
  • difficulty exercising
  • stubborn cough with blood-tinged phlegm
  • increased nighttime urination
  • swollen abdomen
  • rapid weight gain from water retention
  • loss of appetite
  • nausea
  • trouble focusing
  • fainting or severe weakness

Get medical treatment immediately if you’re experiencing these symptoms.

Heart failure needs lifelong management. Treatment options include medications, surgery, and medical devices.

See a doctor

See your doctor right away if you have swollen feet accompanied by the following symptoms:

  • skin that retains a dimple after you press it
  • stretched or broken skin in the affected area
  • pain and swelling that doesn’t get better
  • leg ulcerations or blisters
  • chest pain, pressure, or tightness
  • shortness of breath
  • swelling on only one side

Your doctor can run further tests to determine a diagnosis and treatment plan.

CMS Id: 142930