Why Are My Feet Swollen?

Education

If one or both of your feet are swollen, it can be hard to move around. And it can hurt, too. It’s not always clear why it happens, but some health conditions can make it more likely

Edema

This is when your body holds on to too much water. It can make your feet puffy as well as your hands and face. You might notice it after a long airplane flight or if you stand for hours at a time, and some women have it around their monthly period. It usually goes away on its own, but sometimes it can be a sign of a health problem like low protein levels, heart failure, or kidney or liver disease.

Pregnancy

Feet can swell as a natural part of pregnancy because a woman’s body holds on to more water when she’s expecting. It can be worse at the end of the day or after standing for a long time. It’s not usually a sign of a problem for mother or baby, but it can be uncomfortable.

Chronic Venous Insufficiency

To get back to your heart from your legs and feet, your blood travels in veins with “one-way valves” to keep it from flowing back down. These valves can get damaged as you get older or if you stand or sit for long periods of time. If your blood doesn’t return to your heart the way it should, it can collect in your legs and feet and cause swelling.

Heart Failure

This is when your heart doesn’t pump blood like it should. If your blood isn’t flowing well in the right direction, it can back up in your legs and feet and cause swelling. With heart failure, it can be uncomfortable to lie down flat, your heart may beat faster or in an unusual rhythm, and you might have a hard time catching your breath. Get medical help right away if you notice these signs.

Kidney Disease

Your kidneys filter waste from your blood. If they aren’t working right — because of a condition like diabetes or high blood pressure — too much salt (sodium) can be left in your blood. That makes your body hold on to more water than it should. Gravity pulls the water down, and your feet and ankles can swell.

What You Can Do: RICE

This stands for “rest,” “ice,” “compression,” and “elevation.” It’s most useful for sprains and broken bones, but it can help if your feet are swollen for other reasons, too. If you rest and put your feet up (elevate them), fluid will flow away from your feet. Ice makes blood vessels narrower — limiting blood flow — and helps with pain. Special extra-tight socks called compression socks, or wraps around your feet, can help push fluid away from your feet.

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