swollen feet

Swollen feet is a condition where the muscles in the feet have an excessive buildup of fluid. This buildup can lead to a rapid increase in weight over a short period of time. Swollen feet can be a normal inflammatory reaction due to overuse or a strain, especially if you’ve been walking or standing for an unusual amount of time or if you have sprained your ankle. But swollen feet can also be a symptom of a life-threatening medical condition, such as congestive heart failure.

Slight swelling of the lower legs commonly occurs in warm summer months. Slight swelling is more likely to occur if a person has been standing or walking a lot.

Should you go to the doctor?

See a doctor if you have persistent swelling, swelling accompanied by shortness of breath and weight gain, or swelling that damages the skin, or if you have specific medical conditions or concerns. If you are unsure, ask yourself the following questions.

  • Has the swelling been ongoing (as in, has it been there more than 24 hours)?
  • Is the swelling worsening, and spreading up your leg, and are your feet are getting bigger?
  • Do you have other symptoms, such as fever, bruising, shortness of breath, dizziness, light headedness, confusion, or pain?
  • If you press on the swelling it for 10 or 15 seconds does the indentation not stay?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you need to make a doctor’s appointment immediately.  If you also have symptoms like chest pain, shortness of breath, or dizziness, you need to call 911 and get to an urgent-care facility or emergency room NOW. 

Why do my feet swell?

Swelling is caused by fluid buildup in the tissues. Gravity pulls the fluids to your feet and ankles, causing them to swell.

Swelling can be caused by:

  • Congestive heart failure
    • Weakened heart muscles don’t pump very strongly and can cause blood to accrue in your legs, ankles, and feet.
  • Liver cirrhosis
    • Food swelling is a complication of liver cirrhosis.
  • Kidney disease
    • When the kidneys are unable to properly filter sodium from the blood, extra fluid and sodium in your bloodstream can cause swelling.
  • Kidney damage
    • If the blood vessels in the kidneys are damaged, the kidneys do not properly filter protein from the blood. The damaged kidney causes low levels of protein to be present in the bloodstream, resulting in  swelling.
  • Damaged veins in the legs
    • If the veins in the legs have weakened or damaged valves,  blood can build up in your feet and cause swelling.
  • An inadequate lymphatic system,
    • The lymphatic system helps clear excess fluid from tissues. If this system doesn’t work properly, swelling can occur. Damage to the lymphatic system often happens after cancer surgery.
  • Severe, long-term protein deficiency
    • Severe protein deficiency will cause swelling.

Some other less severe causes of swelling are:

  • Side effects of medication
    • Medicines containing estrogen and testosterone
    • Blood pressure medicines that contain calcium channel blockers (Adalat, Afeditab, Nifediac, Nifedical, Procardia, Norvasc, Cardizem, Cartia, Dilacor, Diltia, Tiazac, Plendil, Calan, Covera-HS, Isoptin, Isoptin SR, and Verelan).
    • Androgenic and anabolic steroids
    • Corticosteriods (prednisone)
    • Antidepressants (Pamelor, Aventyl, Norpramin, Elavil, Endep, and Vanatrip
    • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors such as phenelzine (Nardil and Parnate)
    • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
    • Diabetes medications
  • Eating a poor diet high in salt and carbohydrates
  • Taking birth control or hormone replacement therapy pills
  • Pregnancy
    • A  woman produces about 50% more blood and body fluids during pregnancy. Some of this extra fluid causes swelling, especially in the feet during evenings.
  • PMS
    • Swelling caused by PMS is most likely to occur the week before the period starts.
  • Sodium retention
  • Muscle injury
  • Varicose veins
  • History of phlebitis
    • Phlebitis is the inflammation of a vein often caused by injury to the blood vessel wall.
  • Allergic reactions
    • Swelling is a common symptom of food, insect sting, and drug allergies.
  • Preeclampsia
  • Neuromuscular disorders
  • Trauma
  • Laxative abuse
    • Laxative abuse is usually a sign of an eating disorder. The most common reason individuals misuse laxatives are to get rid of unwanted calories, lose weight, or to feel thin or empty.
  • Diuretics abuse
    • Diuretics abuse is also a sign of an eating disorder. Diuretics are used to eliminate fluid to achieve lower body weight.
  • Drug abuse

Swollen feet and ankles while pregnant

Swelling of feet and ankles during pregnancy is normal. This happens because the body produces about 50% more blood and body fluids to meet the needs of a developing baby. Changes in your hormone levels and blood chemistry both cause your body to retain water.

Swelling typically increases during the third trimester. Swelling may be excessive for women excessive amniotic fluid or those carrying multiples. Swelling tends worsen at the end of the day and during the summer.

Swelling will go away after the baby is delivered.

Can swollen feet be treated?

Yes. Treatment will depend on the cause of the swelling. One of the first treatment options is to elevate the legs above the level of the heart. Anti-inflammatory medicine can also help reduce swelling.

Other treatment options are:

  • Leg wedges to elevate the feet while sleeping.
  • Support socks and stocking
    • Support socks and stockings come in various gradients depending on the pressure needed, and various lengths depending on the level of the edema.
  • Proper fitting shoes and socks.

Tips to reduce swelling

  • Cut back on salt.
    • Salt contributes to fluid retention.
    • Avoid adding table salt to foods, and read food labels to identify sodium amounts. High levels of sodium can cause swelling.
    • Consider using different types of salt (pink Himalayan salt or rock salt)
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Put your feet up lying on your back, rest your feet at least 12 inches above the level of your heart for 10 to 15 minutes, three or four times a day.
  • Eat foods like buckwheat that promote increased blood flow.
  • Do not overuse laxatives.
    • Laxatives are most effective when they are taken exactly as prescribed.
  • Use support stockings.
    • Roll these on in the morning to promote circulation and limit gravitation movement of fluids.
    • Most medical supply or drug stores carry support stockings.
  • Exercise regularly.
    • Regular exercise improves circulation.
  • Avoid standing in place for long period of time.
  • Lose excess weight.
    • Excess weight slows circulation of body fluids and puts extra pressure on your veins.
  • Increase muscle activity with walking.
  • Avoid long periods of sitting.
    • Every one or two hours, get up and take a walk.
  • Review your medication with your doctors.
    • Certain drugs, including nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories and calcium channel blockers, can contribute to swelling.

Limit foods that cause swelling

  • Avoid processed foods.
    • Processed foods (chips, pre-packaged snacks, lunch meats, canned foods) are typically high in trans-fat, which over time can eventually lead to swelling.
  • Limit caffeine use. 
  • Focus on lean meats high in protein.
    • Protein helps balance the water retention in your muscles.

Complications?

If not treated properly, excess swelling can cause skin ulcers. It is important to talk with your doctor about swollen feet. Swelling can be a symptom of a severe medical condition like kidney disease or heart failure.

CBD lotion to relieve foot swelling and pain

Full-spectrum CBD lotions might help relieve the pressure and pain foot swelling. Ask your doctor which type of CBD (lotion, oil, salve, cream) might help alleviate the pain. Also ask which dosage to use and how long to use it. It is important to consult with a doctor or a health care practitioner experienced in recommending CBD or medicinal cannabis so you will have the best dosage.

Questions to ask your doctor

  • What symptoms should I not ignore?
  • Which treatment option will work best for me?
    • Will the prescribed medicine interact negatively with my current medications?
  • If my treatment doesn’t work, what should I do next?
  • Is CBD a good treatment option?
    • Which form of CBD is best (lotion, cream, or oil)?
  • Should I wear compression socks?
  • What should I do next?
  • Should I see a nutritionist?
  • Are my shoes making it worst?
  • What are the side effects of my prescribed medicines?
  • Do I need a medical note for work?
  • What types of symptoms should I be concerned about?
  • Should I change my eating habits?
  • When should I schedule a follow-up visit?

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