10 Reasons Why Your Feet Swell – And What to Do

10 Reasons Why Your Feet Swell - And What to Do - Seniors Today

Swelling in the feet is a common complaint most seniors have and it is also one the most commonly dismissed symptoms as well. Some dismiss it, saying that it is just an insect bite, others blame it on the long walks to avoid exercising altogether.

Swelling in the feet is a common complaint most seniors have and it also one the most commonly dismissed symptoms as well. Some dismiss it, saying that it is just an insect bite, others blame it on the long walks to avoid exercising altogether. So to help you understand when it is just an insect bite and when you need to see a doctor, here are a few reasons that can be causing the swelling in your feet, for your better understanding and prompt medical intervention if and when required.

The swelling in your feet can be caused by a number of factors, such as- standing for long hours, surgery which has kept you bed ridden for a few days, change in the weather conditions, excessive alcohol consumption, and so forth.

Most of the time, this swelling is temporary and is not a cause for concern. It however does become distressing when the swelling continues to persist for long durations or is associated with pain or any other symptoms such as redness, swelling in both the feet, fever, etc. It is in such situations that you need to intervene and see a doctor to help you find a probable cause for the swelling and help you take measures to reduce the swelling and the discomfort.

Some of the common causes for the swelling in your feet are:-

 1. Oedema: Oedema is caused by excess fluid leaking from your bloodstream and getting trapped in your body tissues. This collection of fluid between the body tissues can cause swelling and puffiness of the tissue directly under your skin in your legs, ankles and feet, this is called peripheral oedema. It can also affect your arms, hands, and the area around your eyes.

 – Some other symptoms that point in the direction of oedema are:

  • Shiny skin due to the stretching
  • On pressing on the skin for a few seconds, the skin tends to retain a dimple at the area where the pressure was applied
  • It can also be associated with increase in the size of your abdomen (swelling in the stomach or increase in the size/ girth of the stomach)
  • Difficulty in walking or other movements

 

 – Treatment options (consult with your physician before making any changes in your medication, diet or lifestyle):

  • Reduce your salt intake
  • Wear support stockings
  • Keep your feet and legs raised while lying down, preferably at a level higher than your heart
  • Your physician might put you on diuretic medication to avoid retention of the fluid in the body
  • You can ask your physician to change your prescription, in case it is a side effect of the medications you’re already on

 

 2. Lymphoedema: this is swelling in the arms of the leg due to blockage in the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system is a part of the immune and the circulatory systems. Lymphedema is most commonly caused by lymph node removal or damage to the lymph nodes due to cancer treatment; this causes your body to retain lymphatic fluid and cause swelling.

 

– Other symptoms include:

  • Limited range of motion in the limb
  • Pain in the affected limb
  • Feeling of tightness or heaviness
  • Recurrent infections
  • Thickening of the skin

There is no definitive cure for lymphoedema, but you can manage the pain and the swelling. Severe lymphedema may require surgery.

Some treatment options include (consult with your physician before making any changes in your medication, diet or lifestyle):

  • Exercises that encourage lymphatic fluid drainage
  • Manual massages that help with the lymphatic drainage
  • Pneumatic compression
  • Compression garments or bandages for wrapping around the foot or leg
  • CDT- Complete Decongestive Therapy. It is also called Complex Decongestive Therapy and it combines many different approaches including compression, bandaging, compression garments, manual lymphatic drainage, exercise and self-care.

 

 3. Excessive consumption of alcohol: After a night of partying and alcohol, you can present with swollen feet. This is because your body retains more water after drinking. This swelling usually subsides within a few days. If it continues to persist, it can be cause for concern.

If you face this complaint of swelling in your feet frequently after you drink, it could be because of a dysfunction or problem with your liver, kidneys or your heart. This could also mean that you’ve been consuming a lot more alcohol than what is permissible.

– Treatment options (consult with your physician before making any changes in your medication, diet or lifestyle):

  • Increase your water intake
  • Reduce your salt consumption
  • Lie down with your feet elevated at a position higher than the level of your heart
  • Soak your feet in cool water

 

 4. Change in weather (hot weather conditions): Most people complain of swelling in their feet during summers, this is because in hot temperatures the veins expand as a part of the body’s natural cooling process as a result of which the fluids go into the nearby tissues. Sometimes, the expanded veins are unable to bring the blood back to the heart which results in collection of the fluid in the ankles and feet. Individuals with circulatory issues are prone to swelling of feet in hot temperatures.

 

– Treatment options (consult with your physician before making any changes in your medication, diet or lifestyle):

  • Soaking your feet in cool water
  • Increasing your water intake
  • Rest with your feet elevated at a level higher than your heart
  • Wear shoes that let your feet to move and breathe easily
  • Wear support stockings
  • Few minutes of walking and light leg and feet exercises

 

 5. Injury: Foot injuries such as sprains, strains, broken bones, etc. can cause swelling in the feet. When you injure your foot, swelling occurs as a result of blood rushing to the affected area.

Depending on the degree of sprain or the severity of the injury your doctor will prescribe you with pain killers and/or advise you to get a cast or a temporary splint. Severe cases require surgery.

Consult your orthopedic physician, in case there is no relief in pain or if the pain is increasing or in case you start experiencing numbness.

With cases of foot injury, the R.I.C.E approach is often recommended. This includes:

R- Rest: rest the affected limb as much as possible. Avoid bearing weight on the limb

I- Ice: ice your foot for 15-20 minutes at a stretch throughout the day

C- Compression: apply a compression bandage to stop the swelling

E- Elevation: keep your feet lifted at a level above your heart, especially at night

 

 6. Chronic Venous Insufficiency (CVI): it is a condition that causes swelling in the feet due to damaged valves, or from sitting or standing for long hours. This condition affects the movement of the blood from your feet to your heart. Thus, the blood can collect in your legs and feet resulting in consequent swelling.

 

– Some other symptoms include:

  • Ache in the leg or feeling of constant tiredness in the leg
  • New visible varicose veins
  • Flaky, itchy skin on the legs and feet
  • Leather-like appearance of the skin of the legs
  • Venous stasis ulcers
  • Frequent infections

Keep a look out for the above symptoms and seek medical advice as soon as possible. CVI is easily treatable if caught and diagnosed earlier.

– Treatment options (consult with your physician before making any changes in your medication, diet or lifestyle):

  • Avoid standing or sitting in the same position for long hours
  • Do leg and feet exercise when you’re sitting for long hours. Move in your place if you’ve been standing for too long
  • Walk and exercise regularly
  • Keep your weight under check
  • Wear compression stockings
  • Use antibiotics to treat the skin infection (after consulting with your physician)
  • Practice good skin hygiene

 

 7. Kidney diseases: if you have a kidney disease or renal insufficiency, you may retain too much salt in your blood that may cause retention of water which may lead to swelling on your feet and ankles.

 

– Some other symptoms include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Difficulty in concentrating
  • Easy fatigability
  • Difficulty in sleeping or insomnia
  • Muscle twitching or muscle cramping
  • Puffy eyes
  • Increased frequency of urination
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • High blood pressure

 

– Treatment options (consult with your physician before making any changes in your medication, diet or lifestyle):

  • Antihypertensive drugs for the treatment of high blood pressure
  • Your physician might also prescribe you some diuretics
  • Depending on the cause for the renal dysfunction, the doctor can prescribe you medication for treatment of anemia, cholesterol lowering drugs
  • Consuming diets low in protein
  • Calcium and Vitamin D supplementation
  • The ultimate treatment for renal failure is renal transplant or dialysis

 

 8. Liver diseases: hepatic dysfunction can also lead to swelling in the feet. It can be caused due to genetic factors, viruses, excessive alcohol consumption, and obesity are also associated with liver damage.

 

– Some other symptoms include:

  • Yellowish discoloration of the sclera of the eyes and skin (jaundice)
  • Painful and swollen abdomen (can be due to fluid in the abdomen- ascites)
  • Urticarial or itchy skin
  • Dark coloured urine
  • Pale stool which may or may not be bloody or tar coloured
  • Easy fatigability
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Easy bruising

 

– Treatment options (consult with your physician before making any changes in your medication, diet or lifestyle):

  • Weight reduction
  • Abstaining from alcohol
  • Pharmacological intervention
  • Surgical intervention

 

 9. Blood clots: clots are solid clumps that can form in the veins of your legs and hamper with the flow of blood from the feet and legs to the heart thus leading to swollen ankles and feet.

 

  • The swelling may be accompanied by or associated with:
  • Pain
  • Tenderness (pain on touching)
  • Rise in the temperature of the limb
  • Redness or change in the colour of the limb

Fever

  • Treatment options (consult with your physician before making any changes in your medication, diet or lifestyle):
  • Medication that cause thinning of the blood (as advised by your physician)
  • Avoid standing for long periods
  • Regularly exercising
  • Increased fluid intake
  • Healthy lifestyle and choices

 

 10. Heart failure: this happens when the heart is unable to pump the blood correctly and efficiently. If you notice a swelling in your ankles which has diurnal variations and occurs more in the evening, it could be a sign of right sided heart failure which can cause salt and water retention.

 

– The swelling may be accompanied by or associated with:

  • Discomfort on lying down in supine position (on your back)
  • Palpitations
  • Sudden and severe shortness of breath
  • Cough with pink, frothy expectoration or blood tinged phlegm
  • Tightness in the chest or chest pain
  • Increase in frequency of urination especially in the night time
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Generalised weakness
  • Fainting spells or syncope

In case of any of these symptoms seek immediate medical help and assistance.

Here are some signs and symptoms you should look out for. As soon as you see that the swelling in your feet is accompanied by any of these, see your doctor immediately:

– On pressing on the skin on your foot for a few seconds, the skin tends to retain a dimple at the area where the pressure was applied.

– Stretched or broken skin around the affected area

– Pain and swelling that does not get better with time or worsens

– New formed ulcers or blisters

– Chest pain, tightness or pressure over the chest

– Shortness of breath

– Swelling on the limb of just one side

Do not try to self-diagnose or medicate, go see your general physician to help you find out the cause for the swelling, reach a conclusive diagnosis and plan a course of treatment accordingly.

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