When you take your shoes off and notice your toes and feet look puffy and may even feel stiff, you could be experiencing swelling. Swollen feet are a common problem that affects people of all ages. Most of the time, it is not serious and will resolve quickly, but sometimes it can be a sign of a more serious health problem that requires medical attention. The medical term for swollen feet is peripheral edema. Here are some reasons that may be happening.
- Injury. Even a very small injury can cause swelling, you may notice one of your shoes fitting tighter than the other. For this type of swelling, implement the RICE treatment: rest, ice, compression and elevation.
- Infection. There are many types of infection that can happen in the feet. A common one being an ingrown toenail. When swelling is due to an infection, it is usually accompanied by redness and warmth along with the swelling and may be worse at the point of the infection. If you have diabetes, it is important to inspect your feet daily for blisters or sores. Nerve damage can dull the pain sensation and foot problems and infections can progress quickly. Any infection that is causing swelling should be seen by a podiatrist or other medical professional.
- Blood Clot. Blood clots that form in the veins of the legs can stop the return flow of blood from the legs and cause swelling in your feet. Swelling due to a blood clot can happen for a variety of reasons including recent surgery, history of smoking and taking oral contraceptives. If you suspect a blood clot, or have prolonged or painful swelling anywhere in your body including your feet after a surgery, call your medical professional.
- Lack of Activity. Even healthy feet can swell if left in a dependent position for long period of time. For example, air travel or a long car ride. Wearing compression socks can help with this type of swelling. Moving around as well as light exercise as simple as ankle rolling will help prevent potential issues.
- Cardiovascular Disease. If your heart isn't pumping as well as it should be or if you've had cardiac problem, this can cause swelling of the foot and ankle. Sometimes this is one of the first signs of possible cardiac disease.
- Lymphedema. The lymph system in our body is suppose to act as a filter but sometimes a lymph node can get “clogged" or swollen which can cause swelling in the entire foot. If you are unsure of the reason you foot is swollen, you should call your podiatrist or medical professional.
- Venous Insufficiency. Often referred to as varicose veins, these unsightly red, purple or blue veins that appear close to the skin surface can be a culprit of swelling. Talk to your medical professional about remedies for varicose veins.
- Medicine Side Effects. If you have recently started taking a new medicine, it's important to read and be aware of any possible side effects. Some medications that may cause foot or ankle swelling are hormones such as estrogen or testosterone, anti-depressants, blood pressure, steroids and even anti-inflammatories.
These are just a few of the underlying causes for swollen feet. For some immediate relief, try RICE (rest, ice, compression, and elevation). This treatment is especially useful if your foot is swollen due to an injury like a sprain or broken bone, but it may provide some relief for feet that are swollen due to other reasons. Always consult your podiatrist or doctor if you have persistent swelling in your feet.
Dr. Jeffrey S. Hurless
DPM, FACFAS Board Certified Foot & Ankle Surgeon/Podiatrist
Medical Director, HealthyFeetStore.com