Causes and Treatment of Swollen Feet - Health Education - DesiMD Healthcare - India

Causes and Treatment of Swollen Feet

Authored by DesiMD Doctor on 28 Apr 2016 - 11:50


Swollen feet is an excessive build-up of fluids,  in the muscles from fluid seeping out of the small blood vessels, which causes swelling also known as edema. Swollen feet and ankles have become a much more common concern for people these days, occurring due to several reasons such as inflammation, bleeding, lymphedema, infection, or long distance travelling.

Although it is not a grave condition, sometimes it can be a sign of a serious health condition that needs medical attention.  If only one foot is affected, it is normally due to an injury, but if the swelling occurs in both feet, it could be due to a systemic problem which affects the entire body system such as heart or a kidney disease.

Causes: Common causes of swollen feet and natural home treatments for swollen feet are

  • Pregnancy: Swelling in both feet during pregnancy is a common occurrence caused by excess weight or expanding uterus that puts more pressure on the blood vessels of the legs. Swelling can also occur in the legs post-delivery and last for a couple of days. During pregnancy the body produces nearly 50 percent more blood and body fluids to meet the requirement of the developing baby. Any sudden onset of swelling is a medical emergency as it could signify preeclampsia (abnormal state of pregnancy characterized by hypertension, which might be dangerous for the baby and the mother), as suggested by the Journal of American Board of Family Medicine.

    Quick  Tip: Pregnant women should have their legs positioned on a raised level while sitting. Also they should wear comfortable shoes and avoid clothes that are tight elastic around waist or ankles Using cold compress on swollen feet, drinking lots of water and minimizing sodium (salt) intake, can help as recommended by American pregnancy Association.

  • Arthritis: It is an inflammation of one or more of your joints causing stiffness and pain in any joint in the body, especially on the foot and ankle.  There are many types of arthritis that affects the foot and ankle and makes a person difficult to perform activities, thereby disrupting the quality of life. Swelling from arthritis is most commonly caused by active inflammatory synovitis (inflammation of the membrane that lines the joint) connected with rheumatoid arthritis. 

    Osteoarthritis is a common form of arthritis that may rarely cause swelling, usually in a single joint whereas gout is another form of arthritis that usually causes pain, redness and swelling of the feet. A study published in the Journal of American Podiatric Medical Association showed that about 24% of the population has at least one foot ailment, with older adults suffering more than younger adults. Even though there is no complete cure for arthritis, there are many treatment options available to slow down the progress of the disease and ease symptoms.

  • Health disorders: According to the Journal of American Board of Family Medicine, medical conditions like heart disease such as hypertensive heart disease and congestive heart failure; liver disease, kidney problems, PMS (Pre menstrual syndrome) and diabetic complications can cause swelling in both legs. If the heart is not functioning properly, it can’t pump the blood around the body as effectively and builds up pressure in the blood vessels causing fluid to leak into the surrounding tissues.  Gravity causes this fluid to collect around the feet. If the kidneys are dysfunctional, they don't eliminate salt and fluid effectively, which causes the fluid to leak out into the surrounding tissues. Swollen feet is often one of the first signs of kidney problems.
  • Obesity: Obesity and overweight can lead to swollen feet due to the accumulation of the excess fat. The cardiopulmonary system of an obese person is already compromised due to their large surface area. Hence the blood supply to their lower extremities is slow.
  • Medication Side-Effects: As per the University of Maryland Medical Center, certain medicines may cause swelling in your legs. The most common include hormone drugs like contraceptives; diabetes drugs like Actos and Avandia; Antidepressant drugs, anti inflammatory drugs like NSAIDs and steroids and also blood pressure medicines such as nifedipine and amlodipine.
  • Prolonged standing: As per WSJ (Wall Street Journal), your feet are burdened to bear the body weight. Hence, if you stand for a long time, the load gets heavy for the feet, joints and ligaments. Walking and moving the feet and ankles up and down helps circulate blood back to the heart. If you are standing on your feet throughout the day and not contracting your muscles, everything drains to the feet.

According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, other factors that cause swelling in the feet are due to:

  • Trauma to the lower extremities
  • Injuries and Infection
  • Long trips or flights
  • Blood clot in the leg
  • Liver failure
  • Surgery on the pelvis
  • Venous insufficiency
  • Gender
  • Aging (due to zero activity)
  • Poor blood circulation
  • Water retention in the ankle area

Natural home treatments to get rid of swollen feet:

Whatever the reason, the following natural home remedies could help relieve swollen feet -

  • Epsom salt: Magnesium sulphate present in Epsom salt helps improve circulation and reduce swelling faster. Moreover it helps neutralize foot odor. This is the oldest and most relaxing way to reduce your swollen feet. Just mix half a cup of Epsom salt in a foot tube filled with warm water. Soak your feet in that water for about 15 minutes. Repeat this procedure upto three times a week.
  • Contrast Hydrotherapy: This type of hydrotherapy that includes both cold and warm water is highly recommended remedy, with countless people experiencing relief. Cold water alleviates swelling and inflammation whereas warm water helps improve circulation. Filling 2 foot tubes, one with cold water and the other with warm water and soaking your swollen feet in warm water for about 4 minutes and then immediately in cold water for just a minute. Keep alternating this for upto 20 minutes and repeat this procedure until you get relief.
  • Raised Legs : Elevating the legs above the heart can alleviate swollen feet. Fluid accumulates in the feet from gravity. Pregnancy commonly causes swelling in the feet. Positioning the feet on an elevated level for 30 minutes, 3 times a day and notice the difference.
  • Fluid Intake: Drinking plenty of water is very effective because the kidneys closely monitor the amount of fluids and sodium in the body. When you drink more water, you flush salts out of your body that can add to your edema. Dr Katherine Zeratsky, R.D, L.D, a registered dietitian recommends drinking at least 8 glasses of water each day. The water will keep your body hydrated as it is flushing sodium throughout your body. Apart from drinking plain water you can also have fruits and vegetable juices to reduce edema (swelling) symptoms.
  • Cucumber: This is one of the best remedy to cure foot edema. Besides taking this internally, you can keep few slices of cucumber over your swollen foot for nearly 10 minutes, which will help in alleviating the puffiness of foot.
  • Exercise: Exercising helps by taking pressure of the leg and alleviating any swelling you may experience. Rotate your ankle ten times every 30 minutes to promote blood flow in the affected area.

Note: If you have attempted the above home treatments and still your symptoms persist or if your edema is accompanied by chest pains, fainting or shortness of breath, please consult your physician immediately.



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