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Swollen Feet: Causes and Treatments

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Foot problems are amongst the most common complaints globally; one in seven people will experience this type of discomfort.

There are many common causes of this type of discomforts, such as foot blisters, corns, and calluses that occur from normal wear and tear, and while they’re not ideal, they’re also no cause for concern.

However, there are issues related to foot pain that cause concern, and since our feet are so important to our quality of life, keeping them healthy is essential.

Because there are so many different reasons why a person could experience swollen feet, it’s important to be able to distinguish minor issues from when swollen foot pain is considered serious.

We’re going to examine some of the more serious issues that can cause this type of pain, and they are often identifiable because they do not completely respond to at-home treatments such as ice, rest, and painkillers.

If you have pain and swelling that lasts longer than three days despite taking the measures mentioned above, or if you are running a fever or notice any additional, unusual symptoms, you will need to seek immediate medical attention.

Causes of Swollen Feet

1. Fractures

It’s easy to assume that someone who has fractured a bone would realize it immediately, either through pain or visual clues, but this is not always the case.

When only a mild crack occurs, or an individual has a high pain tolerance, a fracture may not be their primary consideration even if they are aware of being injured.

However, in most cases, the fracture will produce discomfort and prolonged swelling and require medical attention.

If you participate in repetitive motion sports or activities that have a high impact on your feet, or if you’ve landed badly on your foot or ankle and notice discomfort and swelling, it’s best to cease all activity, ice the injured area, elevate the injured area, and seek immediate medical attention.

2. Allergic Reaction to Medication

It will probably surprise most people to know that several types of prescription medications can cause swollen and painful feet.

The biggest culprits are medications used to treat high blood pressure and antidepressants, steroids, and oral contraceptives with high estrogen levels.

Suppose you, or someone you know, has recently started taking one of the above medications—or any other medication—and swollen foot pain occurs. In that case, it is extremely important to have it immediately checked by a doctor.

3. Varicose Veins

Varicose veins are also called ‘Venous Insufficiency,’ which refers to a condition in which one or several of the deeper leg veins have valves that have either deteriorated or are missing altogether.

The valves in our veins usually keep our blood flowing back towards the heart. Still, venous insufficiency causes the blood to remain in the veins instead, especially when standing or sitting.

Serious discomfort and foot and leg swellings are typical symptoms and side effects of varicose veins. Still, because a blood clot can also cause these symptoms, a doctor must examine any pain, numbness, or swelling.

4. Cellulitis

Cellulitis is a bacterial infection that affects both surface skin tissues and the deeper layer of the dermis and subcutaneous tissues. The Streptococcus and Staphylococcus (staph) bacteria are the two main culprits that can cause cellulitis, although other bacteria may cause this condition.

Although we contact both bacteria daily, surgical incisions, open wounds, diabetic ulcerations, and extended use of some steroids can render a person vulnerable to cellulitis.

The first signs of cellulitis infection include tenderness of the afflicted area, redness, and swelling, which spread to the adjacent skin. The next symptom is the development of a fever, which chills and swollen glands may accompany.

The lower leg area, especially around the shinbone and the foot, is the most common site of infection. Because cellulitis can be quite dangerous if you experience these symptoms, it is cause for concern, and you should be seen by a qualified professional as soon as possible.

5. Deep Vein Thrombosis

DVT occurs when a blood clot develops in one of the deep veins of the leg, thigh, or pelvis, and it’s one of the most serious reasons you could be experiencing swollen foot pain. Deep Vein Thrombosis can cause pain, warmth, and swelling in the affected leg and the foot of the affected leg.

If you experience these symptoms, you must get them checked immediately; if the clot breaks off, it can travel to your heart and lung, two very serious and sometimes life-threatening complications.

6. Congestive Heart Failure

Most people do not associate pain and swelling in the feet, ankles, and legs with heart failure, but this occurs as the heart loses strength and efficiency and causes the body to begin retaining fluids.

Congestive heart failure occurs in hearts that are damaged or weak from chronic disease or sudden trauma, such as a heart attack, and as such, the heart is no longer strong enough to move blood around the body properly.

The heart muscles may also stiffen up, thus preventing blood from flowing back into its chambers properly. If the symptoms you are experiencing are mild, then make an appointment to see your doctor as soon as possible. However, if they are severe, you need to call an ambulance or get to the emergency room immediately.

Have a look at home remedies for swollen feet.

7. Pregnancy

While pregnant, women often experience different changes in their bodies. Swelling is usually experienced in the hands, feet, and sometimes around the knees.

Increased body fluids cause this swelling as the baby grows in the womb. Get home remedies for swollen feet before and after pregnancy.

8. Injuries. 

If you’re an athlete or you work out a lot, you increase your chances of experiencing some kind of physical injury. So, if you happen to notice that your feet or ankles are bruised and swelling, this isn’t something that you should ignore. There’s a chance that you might have a sprain or you’ve experienced some kind of hairline fracture without even realizing it. It’s a good idea to contact your physician, just to be sure that you’re OK.

9. Heart or kidney disease

If you’ve been diagnosed with heart disease, something that you can be almost certain will be a symptom of it is swollen feet and ankles. The main reason why is due to the fact that high blood pressure can affect blood circulation which can cause swelling throughout the limbs of the body.

Another thing that can cause this is kidney disease. It can also lead to high blood pressure and even diabetes—both of which can result in inflammation around your limbs.

10. Osteoarthritis

If you were to ask a specialist who works at the Advanced Foot and Ankle Institute of Georgia about some of the major causes of swollen ankles and feet, one of the things that they might mention is a condition that is known as osteoarthritis.

It’s actually a diagnosis that becomes more prevalent as people age. The reason why it can lead to swollen feet and ankles is due to the joint damage that it causes. So, if you’ve been having some unexplainable discomfort in your joints, this is another reason to set up an appointment with your health care provider (especially if arthritis runs in the family).

11. Malnutrition. 

When our bodies are not receiving the nutrients that they need, it can also lead to physical symptoms such as swelling. The good news is that this is something that can usually be self-corrected without a lot of assistance.

You can get onto the road to healing by eating a well-balanced diet and consuming anti-inflammatory foods like salmon, dark leafy greens, whole grains, nuts, and low-fat dairy. For a list of other anti-inflammatory foods that are good for you, visit your favorite search engine and put “anti-inflammatory foods” in the search field.

Treatment for Swollen Feet

Conclusion

There are many instances when swollen foot pain is just that; localized pain from swelling that will diminish over a few days with rest and non-invasive care.

Unfortunately, there are also more serious medical conditions that can cause the same symptoms to appear. If you find the pain is sudden, severe, does not diminish with minimal care, or is accompanied by more worrisome symptoms. You need to seek medical immediate medical attention.

If you suffer from foot pain, it’s important to distinguish when your discomfort has a minor cause and when swollen foot pain is considered serious or potentially life-threatening.

Christine
Christine
Dr Christine Nolan is the CEO and founder of Footdiagnosis.com. She also has extensive clinical experience and is therefore uniquely qualified to detect and manage diseases of the lower extremities including those related to peripheral arterial disease and diabetes.