Swollen Feet: Symptoms, Causes, and Prevention

“Morning and Evening Feet” by Hope and Megan licensed under CC BY 2.0
“Morning and Evening Feet” by Hope and Megan licensed under CC BY 2.0

Swollen feet and ankles – also known as edema – actually occurs quite often in people. For people in good health, swelling in the feet and ankles can occur occasionally and is easily addressed by elevating and resting the feet, reducing the blood flow to these swollen extremities.

Swelling in the feet and ankle have a multitude of minor or temporary causes which can be a result of standing or walking for extended periods, as well as sitting for lengthy periods of time due to travelling. Other factors that can influence swelling is diet; salty foods are a major caused of edema as it causes water retention in order to dilute the level of salt in the body. Other factors that may cause foot, leg, and ankle swelling is being overweight as well as increased age.

Swelling is a result of fluid build-up in the areas between the cells in the body. The body is actually having difficulty fighting gravity and recirculating blood and fluids back up the legs toward the heart and through the lymphatic system. This build-up of fluid causes the feet, ankles and even legs to swell.

Leg WedgeIn minor cases of temporary swelling that are not accompanied by other symptoms, the first line of treatment is elevation. Elevating the legs above the heart helps fluid to flow away from the legs not only using the body’s natural fluid transport system but also by the assistance of gravity. Elevation of the legs also helps to reduce pressure on the knees, calves, thighs and lower back. One device that helps with elevation is a leg wedge – use during sleep – as it can be highly effective in the reduction of swelling.

Compression SocksOther health tools that can aid in the reduction of swelling include compression stockings which helps with temporary relief for swelling by providing graduated compression on the foot, ankles, and legs to aid in circulation. Compression socks are also an excellent option for people that spend extended periods of time standing or sitting. They not only help to prevent and/or reduce swelling but also help to reduce fatigue in the lower extremities.

Tips to Help Prevent and Reduce Minor Swelling

  • Wear properly fitting shoes and socks that don’t cause excess binding
  • Don’t wear tight clothing that can restrict blood flow in the legs
  • Avoid prolonged periods of standing
  • Walk regularly to improve muscle activity and circulation
  • Take breaks when travelling to stand and move around
  • Avoid putting weight on the feet when sitting
  • Drink plenty of water and limit salt intake
  • Maintain a healthy body weight

Swelling of the lower extremities which occurs with other symptoms may be a sign of more serious health problems affecting the heart, kidney, liver, or blood vessels. A physician should always be consulted regarding health issues.

Be sure to consult a physician if:

  • Increase in the swelling of one or both legs
  • Redness occurs with swelling
  • Swelling occurs with pain

It is of utmost importance to pay attention to your feet. There are checks and balances in the body that help circulation and feet do not simply become swollen on their own. If certain activities may be causing swelling, it might be best to stop those actives altogether. A simple change in lifestyle and diet can improve overall health as well as prevent other f0ot related problems.


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