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What are the Most Common Causes of Foot Swelling?

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  • Written By: A.E. Freeman
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 18 September 2016
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Usually, foot swelling, also called edema, is nothing to worry about, and the swelling itself is painless. A person's feet may swell after she has been in a car for a long period of time or after a long airplane ride. Other common causes of foot swelling include standing for a long period of time, a woman's menstrual cycle, and consuming high-sodium foods. More serious conditions, like circulation problems, can cause swelling as well, however, as can kidney or liver problems. Pregnancy and some medications can also cause this symptom.

Serious heart conditions, such as heart failure and venous insufficiency, can cause the feet to swell. When someone suffers from heart failure, the heart cannot pump blood through the body properly. Blood pools in the feet, leading to the swelling. The same happens when a person has venous insufficiency, which is when a person's veins, usually in the legs, are not strong enough to pump blood up to the heart. As a result, the blood stays in the lower appendages, causing the feet to swell.

Other causes of foot swelling include liver and kidney damage. When someone's kidneys do not function properly, waste products and salt cannot be fully eliminated from the body. The excess waste builds up in blood vessels, increasing swelling. Cirrhosis, or liver damage, disrupts the organ's ability to remove toxins and fluids from the body, resulting in swelling in the feet, legs, and stomach area.

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A woman who is pregnant may experience swelling in her feet and hands because she is retaining fluid. In some cases, swollen feet during pregnancy could be a sign of preeclampsia, high blood pressure during pregnancy that can be very dangerous for the fetus. Changes in hormonal levels, which occur during pregnancy, during a menstrual cycle, or from birth control and hormone replacement therapy, can also cause swelling in the feet.

Several different medications may cause this problem as well. Calcium channel blockers, used to treat high blood pressure, can make the feet swell, as can thiazolidinediones, which are used to treat diabetes, and vasodilators, drugs that open up blood vessels. Some antidepressants and corticosteroids can also increase swelling in the feet.

Foot swelling can often be reduced by propping the feet up above the level of the heart several times a day. Some people notice a reduction in swelling when they get up and move around. Limiting salt intake and wearing compression stockings can also help. If the edema is caused by a heart, liver, or kidney problem, swelling may go down when the medical condition is treated.

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ddljohn
Post 3

@bear78-- I'm not a doctor or expert. But I think that if you are pregnant and have suddenly started getting foot swelling, you need to see your doctor for a check up. Preeclampsia does cause swelling and it may be difficult to know whether the swelling is normal or not if it is mild. So it's best to see a doctor and get tested for preeclampsia just in case.

My sister had preeclampsia during her pregnancy. In her case, she had swelling, not just in her feet and ankles, but also her hands and face. So swelling in multiple parts of the body can be a warning sign. My sister's swelling developed suddenly and it was severe so there was no doubt about it being abnormal in her case.

bear78
Post 2

So how can a woman who is pregnant know whether foot swelling during pregnancy is actually normal or not? It seems like such a common pregnancy symptom. Are there warning signs that the swelling is not normal?

ZipLine
Post 1

My high blood pressure medications sometimes cause foot swelling. I was terribly worried about it at first but after a thorough check up with the cardiologist, I know that I'm fine. In my case, the occasional swelling is just a side effect.

But I agree with the article that reducing sodium in the diet, taking a walk every day and keeping feet up when resting at home are very helpful. I do experience less swelling when I do these things regularly. As someone with high blood pressure, I need to do these for my general health and to keep my blood pressure under control anyway.

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