Swollen Feet? Here are 11 Known Causes

September 16, 2021 8:03 pm Published by

If you’re wondering what causes swollen feet and ankles, the answer might not be so simple. A lot of different things can cause this issue, from different types of food or drinks you may have had that day to serious underlying medical issues. If you notice your feet or ankles are puffier than normal, here are some of the reasons that might be the case, and when you should be concerned.

What Causes Swollen Feet?

There are 11 main, known causes of swelling in the feet. It’s best to think about each one, and rule out the more minor issues, before seeing a doctor or worrying too much. The most common causes of swelling in the feet are:

1. Edema

Edema comes from extra fluid that’s trapped in the tissues throughout your body. That can happen during exercise, warm weather, or from medical conditions. There are a lot of simple causes of edema, such as sitting for too long in one position, but it can also be a sign of serious disease.

2. Alcohol Consumption

Drinking alcohol can cause swelling in the feet and ankles that generally goes away as your body processes the alcohol and removes it from your system. Swelling in the feet based on alcohol consumption generally isn’t serious if it’s infrequent.

3. Pregnancy Complications (Preeclampsia)

Swollen feet during pregnancy is fairly common. The weight gain and water retention is partially to blame. But there can also be complications like preeclampsia that can cause significant swelling. If you are more than 20 weeks pregnant, your blood pressure has been normal up until this point and your feet are starting to swell, preeclampsia may be the root cause. This condition is characterized by high blood pressure or signs of damage to another organ like the liver or kidneys. Fortunately, your doctor can help if that’s the cause.

4. Hot Weather

Nearly everyone retains a bit of extra water in hot weather, it’s a part of your body’s reaction to help cool you off by constricting your blood vessels. If you’re concerned about what causes swollen ankles and feet in the heat, don’t stress too much. “Heat edema”, as long as it’s minor, will probably go away on its own. Generally, it’s not caused by any underlying conditions.

5. Foot or Ankle Injury

Have you experienced a trip or fall that may have caused an injury to your foot or ankle? If so, even if there isn’t severe pain, your foot or ankle can swell a little and that may linger for some time. It depends on the type and severity of the injury, because a simple sprain or strain may not take as long to heal as a larger problem. If the injury and pain is significant, you’ll want to see your doctor to make sure your ankle or the bones in your foot aren’t broken.

Swollen feet and ankles can be caused by a sprain or strain on the area during exercise.

6. Lymphedema

Lymphedema can be one of the underlying illnesses that causes swelling in the feet and ankles. This occurs because of a blockage in the body’s lymphatic system that causes a build-up of lymph fluid. There are treatments available, but seeing your doctor for prompt care is important.

7. Chronic Venous Insufficiency (CVI)

CVI is what causes things like varicose veins. But in more serious cases, it can also cause swelling and discomfort in the lower extremities. This condition prevents your leg veins from allowing adequate blood flow back to your heart. It can also cause slight pain or discolored and thick skin on legs. If you suspect this condition is the root of your swollen feet or ankles, or if your doctor has told you that it’s part of your medical record, you’ll want to monitor any swelling you develop.

8. Infection

Infections that are severe enough to cause swelling in your foot or ankle need treatment promptly. If the infection isn’t responding to home treatment, you should see your doctor. You may need a course of antibiotics or other treatments. Diabetics should be particularly cautious of swollen feet and ankles as they are susceptible to blisters and other foot trouble that can cause infection. 

9. Blood Clot (Deep Vein Thrombosis)

A blood clot is when a clump of blood changes from liquid to a gel-like or semisolid state and runs the risk of blocking normal blood flow. Some DVTs cause swelling in the feet and ankles, and they can be very serious. Getting them treated quickly is important, before they have the opportunity to cause other health issues.

10. Heart, Liver, or Kidney Disease

When the heart, kidneys, or liver aren’t working as well as they should be, you will often retain fluid. If you have ruled out some of the less severe causes of swollen feet or ankles, you should consult with your doctor to make sure other serious issues with these organs aren’t happening. 

11. Medication Side Effects

There is a very long list of medications that can cause swollen feet. Anything that causes you to retain water could be a culprit, and some medications have unusual side effects. If you have recently started a new medication, and are noticing that your feet and ankles are swollen, talk to your doctor about switching medications. 

When Should I Be Concerned About My Swollen Feet? How Do I Know if My Feet Swelling Is Serious?

There are a few ways you can determine if the swelling in your feet may be serious. If your feet are badly swollen and painful, and they don’t get better with home treatment, it’s time to check with your doctor. You should also check with your doctor if you’re concerned that your swollen feet are caused by something like medications in order to see if a change in medication or a different dosage may be right for you.

Need advice about swollen feet and ankles, or other foot concerns? We’re here to help. We know that swelling can sometimes seem minuscule but can also be a sign of a serious problem. Plus, they can be very uncomfortable. It’s not an issue you should just have to live with, especially when there are treatments available. Give us a call today, and let us help you get the support you need to feel healthy and put your best foot forward.

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