Why Your Feet and Legs Are Swollen and What to do About It

When fluid builds up in body tissue swelling occurs. The clinical term for this condition is edema. Because of gravitational pull, edema is most common in the lower extremities.

In most cases, poor blood flow is to blame for swelling in the feet and legs. The feet are the furthest part of the body from the heart. It takes effort to pump blood and fluids back up through the veins. There are also many conditions that can decrease blood flow. If left untreated, the swelling could become chronic and cause a significant amount of discomfort.

Common Causes for Swelling in the Legs and Feet

There are a number of causes for swelling in the legs and feet. Often it’s a symptom of an underlying health condition that needs to be addressed. If you’re experiencing edema, schedule an appointment with your doctor to determine if the swelling is a symptom of one of the causes below.

PREGNANCY

During pregnancy, the body swells with a lot of additional fluid. To sustain the growth of the uterus and baby, a woman’s body produces 50% more blood during the second trimester. Staying off your feet as much as possible and keeping them elevated can help move the blood back up the legs. There are also compression products that are specially designed to apply gradual pressure to promote better blood flow.

Pregnant women should note that sudden swelling could be a sign of pre-eclampsia. It’s a dangerous condition involving extremely high blood pressure. If swelling is accompanied by abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, headaches or vision changes seek help immediately.

INJURY OR SURGERY

If you sustain an injury in your legs, feet and/or ankles or you have surgery in those areas there’s a possibility swelling can occur. Typically, edema is just a part of the healing process and should decrease as you recover. Ask your surgeon if compression garments should be worn to minimize the swelling.

After an injury like a sprained ankle, you can help decrease the swelling by using the RICE method: rest, ice, compression and elevation.

WEARING THE WRONG SHOES

Few people realize how much shoes can impact health. If you’re on your feet all day, shoes without the proper support and fit can cause a number of problems, including edema. To avoid this problem:

· Make sure you’re wearing the right shoe size.

· Consider width as well as length.

· Use insoles to support your arch.

When shoes are too tight, short or small it constricts blood flow. The better fitted they are the easier they’ll be on your feet.

OBESITY

Being overweight can take a toll on your body. The excess weight can put extra strain on joints and ligaments as well as slowing down blood circulation. If you are clinically overweight or obese work with your primary care physician to create a nutrition and exercise plan. Start small by building one or two healthy habits at a time.

MEDICATIONS

Some medications are known to cause swelling in the lower half of the body. These include:

· Calcium channel blockers for high blood pressure

· Anti-depressants

· Estrogen and testosterone hormones

· Steroids

If the swelling is a side effect of medication it should resolve once you stop taking the medicine.

INSUFFICIENT VEINS

Veins carry blood from other parts of the body back to the heart. When there’s venous insufficiency the veins don’t efficiency move the blood from the feet and legs. Usually, it’s a result to damaged valves within the veins that allow blood to seep into the surrounding tissue. Your doctor can run diagnostic tests to determine if venous insufficiency is the cause of swelling.

HEART FAILURE AND CARDIOVASCULAR CONDITIONS

Because swelling is closely connected to blood flow, the cardiovascular system is one of the first things a doctor will examine. Conditions like heart failure and blood clots are common causes for swelling in the lower extremities. Once the diagnostic tests are complete your physician can provide guidance on how to address the problem and hopefully reduce the swelling.

KIDNEY FAILURE

The kidneys help process fluids and filter waste. When the kidneys are working properly fluid can build up in the body. Kidney failure is a life-threatening situation and needs to be checked out immediately.

LIVER FAILURE

The liver carries out a number of functions, including the production of albumin. This protein stops blood from leaking out of veins. Liver disease can impede albumin production and lead to edema. There are over 100 types of liver diseases that can be detected through diagnostic testing.

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