My Feet Swell…

The medical term for swelling is Edema. It occurs as a result of excessive fluids storing in the tissues of the body. The whole body can be affected but generally it would rear its head in areas like the hands, feet…the legs and ankles. The extra accumulation of fluid is what causes the swelling of the tissue.

It can result from pregnancy, injury, some medications and many other medical conditions including diabetes, deep vein thrombosis, cancer, poor circulation, varicose/spider veins, and heart and kidney malfunctions.

Establishing the cause and treating the ailment is important, given that swelling and numbness sometimes go hand in hand. Therefore, it cannot be emphasised enough how critical it is to get an early diagnosis and start with the relevant treatment quickly. This may be the RICE Formula…Rest, Ice, Compress and Elevate, electrical treatment, massage/physiotherapy, exercise or medication or a combination of some of these treatments.


Check your doctor or foot health specialist when these signs and symptoms start occurring:

  • Puffiness or swelling

  • Deep indentation on feet after removing socks or shoes

  • Skin that retains a dimple after being pressed for several seconds

A critical type of edema, that persons who may be experiencing it should immediately seek medical attention, is pulmonary edema. This could be a life threatening condition as it is edema in the lungs. The symptoms of this include:

  • Chest pains

  • Shortness of breath

  • Difficulty breathing

What causes Edema?

It is the leakage of fluid from small blood vessels in the body, which then releases into nearby tissues. When your body senses the capillaries are leaking, your kidneys begin to retain more sodium and water than normal to compensate for the lost fluid from your blood vessels. This increases the amount of fluid circulating through your body, which causes the capillaries to leak more and the tissue becomes swollen.

In not too severe cases of edema it may be because of:

  • Diet – especially if too many salty foods are involved

  • Poor circulation

  • Pregnancy – a common occurrence is retention of fluid particularly in the feet

  • Menstruation – be bloated

  • Positioning – functioning in one area for too long, whether it is standing or sitting

  • An injury, for example, a sprained ankle.

In some cases, however, edema may be a sign of a more serious underlying medical condition or disease. Some of these include:

  • Liver malfunction

  • Kidney disease

  • Lymph Nodes problems

  • Diabetes

  • Deep Vein Thrombosis

  • Varicose /Spider Veins

  • Cancer

To alleviate swelling – keep your legs elevated, limit your salt intake, wear support stockings and use water tablets as recommended by you health care provider.


It should be treated to prevent:

  • Increased swelling

  • Difficulty in walking

  • Stiffness

  • Stretched skin, which can become itchy and uncomfortable

  • Increased risk of infection in the swollen area

  • Scarring between layers of tissue

  • Fibrous deposits in tissues

  • Decreased blood circulation

  • Decreased elasticity of arteries, veins, joints and muscles

  • Increased risk of skin breakdown (ulceration).

Tests and Diagnosis

To understand what might be causing your edema, your doctor will get your medical history. If an underlying condition is suspected as the cause of your edema, he or she may request certain test to establish the cause; these may include:

  • A urine test (urinalysis)

  • Blood tests

  • Measuring or estimating the pressure in certain blood vessels

  • A chest X-ray

Treatments and Drugs

Treating edema usually involves:

  • Treating the underlying cause of edema

  • Taking medication to increase your kidneys’ output of water and sodium

  • Limiting salt in your diet to decrease fluid retention, as recommended by your doctor

Home and Lifestyle Remedies

Most medical conditions would generally have a lifestyle management aspect for prevention or containment. There are some for edema which should not be attempted before seeking your health-care provider’s advice to determine which are best suited to you.

  • Dietary Restrictions: Please follow your suggested diet faithfully, especially with regard to salt reduction.

  • Movement: To help pump the excess fluid back to your heart, movement and use of the muscles in the part of your body that’s affected by edema may be valuable. Additionally, your doctor could be approached about exercises that may be done to reduce swelling.

  • Massage Therapy: Stroking the affected area toward your heart using firm, but not painful pressure could help move the excess fluid out of that area.

  • Elevation. Hold the swollen part of your body above the level of your heart for at least 30 minutes, three or four times a day. In some cases, elevating the affected body part while you sleep may be helpful.

  • Avoid extremes in temperature: Extremes in temperature along with sudden changes can worsen edema. So avoid hot baths, hot showers, hot tubs and saunas. Also protect yourself from sunburn.

  • Smoking: Don’t smoke.

  • Compression. If one of your limbs is affected by edema, your doctor may recommend you wear compression stockings. These keep pressure on your limbs to prevent fluid from collecting in the tissue.


Your feet mirror your general health . . . cherish them!

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