Swollen feet: causes and symptoms of swollen feet

Swollen feet can be caused by factors such as overexertion, heat or pregnancy. There may be one swollen foot (the left foot or the right foot) or two swollen feet. Swollen or swollen feet can be accompanied by swollen ankles and other complaints. Normally, swollen feet are a temporary problem and not an immediate cause for concern. However, because it can be uncomfortable and bothersome, many people take measures to reduce swelling and deswell their feet. By treating swollen feet with self-care measures, you can reduce the swelling and pain you experience and resume your daily activities. If your feet remain swollen or are accompanied by other symptoms, it may be the sign of an underlying condition that needs treatment. In that case, consult your doctor.

  • Swollen feet due to standing or sitting for a long time
  • Reduced blood flow
  • What to do?
  • Swollen feet from eating and drinking
  • Too much salt
  • Alcohol
  • Swollen feet due to hot weather
  • Veins swell due to natural cooling process
  • Therapy
  • Swollen feet during pregnancy
  • Usually from the second trimester
  • What to do?
  • Excess weight and swelling of your feet
  • Disrupted blood circulation
  • What to do?
  • Ankle or foot injury
  • Hormone fluctuations
  • Hormonal causes
  • What to do?
  • Swollen feet due to medication
  • Liver and kidneys
  • Kidney diseases
  • Liver diseases
  • Infection
  • Swelling due to infections
  • What to do?
  • Lymphedema
  • Disruption in the lymphatic system
  • What to do?
  • Your heart doesn’t pump enough blood (heart failure)
  • Blood clot
  • Often one-sided swelling
  • Therapy
  • Call in your GP
  • Relieving swollen feet


Swollen feet due to standing or sitting for a long time

Reduced blood flow

People with professions that require them to sit still or stand still for a long time in the same position are more susceptible to developing swollen feet and ankles. Sales staff, doctors, nurses and others who stand on their feet all day often end the day feeling like their shoes are too tight. When you don’t move much while standing, the muscles in your legs, ankles and feet don’t have a chance to contract, which slows down the blood flow to and from your feet. The same thing happens to people who sit for long periods of time. Reduced blood flow causes swelling, which makes shoes tight. And sitting cross-legged is more likely to cause pinched blood vessels and swelling. While annoying, this kind of swelling at the end of the day is usually not indicative of a larger problem and should go away once you walk around or loosen your legs. It is wise to sit down for five minutes every hour or put your legs up.

What to do?

If swelling persists or you don’t take rest breaks, try compression stockings. These can increase circulation in the calf and lower leg muscles.Swollen feet due to too much salt / Source: Onefox, Pixabay

Swollen feet from eating and drinking

Too much salt

The sodium in salt is the biggest food culprit when it comes to water retention in general. So it is understandable that it can lead to swelling of the foot. The advice for adults is not to consume more than 6 grams of salt per day (source: Nutrition Center). But most sodium consumption comes not from the salt shaker, but from processed foods and restaurant foods, where it is used not only as a seasoning but also as a preservative. Major sources include processed meats, processed snacks, frozen meals, canned soups, bread and salad dressing.What to do? Go easy on yourself and focus on sodium-free items such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and whole grains, while avoiding processed foods.


Drinking alcohol can lead to swollen feet because your body retains more water after drinking. Usually it will disappear within a few days. If the swelling does not subside during this time, it is advisable to consult your doctor. If you often experience swollen feet after drinking alcohol, this could be a sign of a problem with your liver, heart or kidneys. This could also be a sign that you are drinking too much alcohol. The advice is not to drink alcohol, or at least not more than 1 glass per day, according to the Nutrition Center. This advice is the same for men and women.Swollen feet due to alcohol consumption / Source: Marian Weyo/Shutterstock.comWhat to do? To treat swollen feet due to alcohol consumption:

  • drink more water
  • reduce your salt intake
  • put your feet up and rest
  • foot bath in cold water


Swollen feet due to hot weather

Veins swell due to natural cooling process

Swollen feet are common during hot weather because your veins swell as part of your body’s natural cooling process. It is a normal phenomenon that your veins dilate in warm weather. As the weather gets colder, the size of the veins decreases again. However, sometimes your veins are unable to return blood to the heart. This results in fluid accumulation in the ankles and feet. People with circulatory problems are particularly sensitive to this.Drink plenty of water in hot weather to prevent swollen feet / Source: Mimagephotography/


Here are some natural remedies to reduce foot swelling in hot weather:

  • foot bath in cold water
  • drink a lot of water
  • wear shoes that allow your feet to breathe and move freely
  • walk barefoot
  • put your feet up and rest
  • wear support stockings.
  • go for a walk for a few minutes and do simple leg exercises


Swollen feet during pregnancy

Usually from the second trimester

For many women, swollen feet are an inevitable part of pregnancy. It usually starts in the second trimester. As the baby grows in the belly, it puts pressure on the pelvic veins and you get somewhat compromised circulation. Hormonal changes also get some of the blame. During pregnancy, your body produces the hormone relaxin, which causes pelvic and foot joints and ligaments to relax and expand.Swollen feet during pregnancy / Source: Greyerbaby, PixabaySwollen feet often get worse as the pregnancy progresses, especially at the end of the day and when the temperature outside is high. Usually the swelling is nothing to worry about. But if it happens quickly, especially in your hands (swollen hands) and face (swollen face), call the doctor. This could be a sign of a potentially life-threatening condition called preeclampsia or pre-eclampsia, which leads to rapid onset high blood pressure that can be dangerous for mother and child. In addition to high blood pressure, you suffer from fluid retention and the presence of protein in the urine due to kidney problems.

What to do?

To relieve swollen feet that are a normal part of pregnancy, it is advisable not to stand for long periods of time and elevate your feet regularly. Compression stockings or maternity tights can also help, as can certain exercises, putting cold compresses on the feet and sleeping on your side. If you have a big belly during pregnancy, lying on your back causes the blood vessels to compress. That makes it more difficult for the circulatory system to return blood to the heart.Being overweight increases the risk of swollen ankles and feet / Source: Taniadimas, Pixabay

Excess weight and swelling of your feet

Disrupted blood circulation

Swollen feet are more common in people who are overweight or obese. One of the most common reasons why people have problems with swollen feet is simply that they are too heavy. The fat is partially stored around the abdomen and the fat disrupts blood circulation in the legs. It’s like squeezing a garden hose.

What to do?

For weight-related swelling, it’s first important to rule out other causes and then consider changing your diet and exercise habits to help you lose some weight.

Ankle or foot injury

Maybe you sprained your ankle during a gym workout, or overexerted yourself while running or playing with your kids and ended up with a stress fracture of the leg or toes. Injuries like these will cause swelling in and around your feet. The body’s response to an acute injury is inflammation and this is accompanied by swelling.Surgical intervention on your leg, ankle or foot also causes swelling. The doctor will probably recommend that you reduce swelling after the procedure by elevating your feet and applying cold.Drink a lot during menstruation / Source: Luminast/

Hormone fluctuations

Hormonal causes

You can retain a lot of fluid just before your period starts? This gives you that bloated feeling, especially in your lower abdomen. Your breasts, feet, fingers and ankles can also swell considerably. This is the result of hormone fluctuations after ovulation. Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) can also be responsible for swollen feet. Hormonal changes caused by hormonal birth control or hormone replacement therapy can also contribute to swelling in various parts of the body, including your feet.

What to do?

Make sure you drink plenty of fluids, limit your salt intake and get plenty of exercise, which can help with circulation.Swollen feet due to medication / Source: Stevepb, Pixabay

Swollen feet due to medication

There are certain medications that cause swelling. Hormonal birth control and hormone replacement therapy aren’t the only medications that can cause swollen feet. This can also be many other medications, and usually for different reasons. Pills to control blood sugar levels in people who have diabetes, such as rosiglitazone or pioglitazone, make it harder to get sodium out of the body, leading to swelling.The heart medications known as direct vasodilators can also cause this. These medications act directly on the smooth muscle cells of the vascular wall. Vasodilation means that the medications help open the blood vessels to free up blood flow. Calcium channel blockers dilate blood vessels by relaxing the muscles in the vessel walls. This can also cause swollen feet, as can angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs) that prevent sodium from being flushed from your body.Some over-the-counter medicines are also responsible for swelling. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen can worsen swelling in people who already have heart failure or liver failure because they cause the body to retain sodium.Other medications can cause your feet to swell with no apparent explanation. These include anti-seizure drugs such as gabapentin, chemotherapy such as docetaxel and cisplatin e, and medications to treat Parkinson’s disease such as pramipexole and ropinirole.

Liver and kidneys

Kidney diseases

If you have kidney disease or if your kidneys are not working properly, you may have too much salt in your blood. This causes you to retain water, which can lead to swollen feet and ankles. In addition, the following symptoms may be present:

  • difficulty concentrating
  • little appetite
  • feeling tired and weak

Location of the kidneys in the body / Source: Madhero88, Wikimedia Commons (Public domain)

  • have less energy
  • difficulty sleeping (and therefore sleep deprivation)
  • muscle twitching and muscle cramps
  • swollen eyes
  • dry, itchy skin
  • frequent urination
  • nausea and vomiting
  • chestpain
  • shortness of breath
  • high bloodpressure

Treatment Treatment options include:

  • medications for high blood pressure
  • diuretics or water pills
  • cholesterol-lowering medications
  • anemia medications
  • low protein diet
  • calcium and vitamin D supplements
  • phosphate binders

Ultimately, kidney failure can be treated with a kidney transplant or dialysis.

Liver diseases

Liver disease can cause swollen feet because the liver does not function properly. This leads to excess fluid in your legs and feet, causing swelling. It can be caused by genetic factors. Viruses, alcohol and obesity are also linked to liver damage.Other symptoms include:

  • yellow skin and eyes (jaundice)
  • painful and swollen abdomen (ascites)
  • itchy skin

Jaundice / Source: Dr. Thomas F. Sellers, Wikimedia Commons (Public domain)

  • dark urine
  • pale, bloody or tar-colored stools
  • fatigue
  • nausea or vomiting
  • little appetite
  • bruise easily

Treatment Treatment options include:

  • weight loss
  • abstain from alcohol
  • medicines
  • surgery



Swelling due to infections

A swelling of the foot that hurts may be caused by a skin infection. Cellulite may be the cause. This is an inflammation of the deeper parts of the subcutaneous connective tissue. In that case, the swelling is usually accompanied by red, hot, painful skin.People with diabetes and peripheral vascular disease (PVD, diseases of the blood vessels outside the heart and brain) are at higher risk of infection, and the infections they get can escalate quickly due to reduced blood flow to the body’s extremities, including the feet. If you have diabetic neuropathy, a common complication of diabetes that affects nerve function, an infection can be difficult to notice and therefore worsen quickly.Infections can also occur from a cut in the skin, which creates an opening for bacteria to enter, or even from something like ingrown toenails. Certain diseases, including lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, also increase the risk of a foot infection.

What to do?

Simple measures such as good foot care can help prevent infections. Antibiotics can be prescribed by the doctor in case of a bacterial infection. Fungal infections can be treated with antifungal medications.Edema in the foot and leg with leakage of lymphatic fluid through a wound / Source: Lost Mountain Studio/


Disruption in the lymphatic system

Lymphedema is a condition that occurs when something goes wrong with the lymphatic system, which is part of your immune system. Lymph fluid contains white blood cells that fight infections in different parts of the body. Clusters of lymph nodes throughout the body regulate the transport of this fluid. But if the lymph nodes are damaged or removed, for example during surgery for cancer, the fluid will not drain properly and that causes swelling.Generally, swelling in the feet occurs when the lymph nodes in the pelvis, which control lymph movement in the legs and feet, are injured or removed. The lymphatic vessels are very thin and flexible, so during surgery in the groin area, even with meticulous surgical care, they can become damaged and form an obstacle that blocks the return of the lymphatic fluid.

What to do?

Lymphedema can sometimes be hereditary, but often it is caused by obesity, cancer or an infection. If you suspect that your swollen feet are caused by one of these conditions, contact your doctor immediately. In the meantime, try to wear compression stockings and exercise as much as possible. The muscles pump fluid from the lymphatic channels, so exercise can reduce symptoms.

Your heart doesn’t pump enough blood (heart failure)

Swollen feet are a not uncommon sign of congestive heart failure. Heart failure does not mean that your heart stops working, just that your heart cannot pump enough blood. This leads to fluid retention. The location of the swelling can help you rule out heart failure: it usually swells in the feet in right-sided heart failure. And if you have heart failure, swelling in the feet is usually more pronounced than the swelling that occurs after being on your feet all day. If it lasts long enough, you can also get dimples: the fluid accumulation is soft and so you can press dimples into it. If this occurs in combination with shortness of breath and you gain weight, this is worrying and it is wise to consult your doctor immediately.

Blood clot

Often one-sided swelling

Blood clots are solid clumps of blood. Blood cells can attach to it and form a blood clot. They can form in the veins of your legs. This hinders the return of blood to your heart and leads to swollen ankles and feet. It often happens on one side of your body. This swelling may be accompanied by:

  • pain
  • sensitivity

A healthy lifestyle is more than just healthy food / Source: Anna Shepulova/

  • a warm sensation
  • redness or a change in color in the affected area
  • fever



Treatment options and preventive measures include:

  • taking blood thinners
  • avoiding long periods of sitting
  • exercise regularly
  • drink more: drinking water is fine, and according to the Nutrition Center you can also replenish your fluids with drinks such as coffee, tea, dairy and soy drinks
  • a healthy lifestyle

 Shortness of breath / Source: Wavebreakmedia/

Call in your GP

Consult your doctor immediately if you have swollen feet, which is accompanied by one or more of the following symptoms:

  • A dimple remains visible in the skin after you press it
  • a skin wound in the affected area
  • pain (sore foot) and swelling that does not get better
  • sores or blisters
  • chest pain, pressure or tightness
  • shortness of breath
  • swelling on only one side


Relieving swollen feet

Some self-care measures to deswell swollen feet:

  • Put your feet up. Use pillows to raise your feet above the level of your heart. This promotes blood circulation and reduces fluid retention.
  • Try to relieve your feet as much as possible and rest. Avoid standing or sitting for long periods of time. Standing for long periods of time can cause your feet to swell a bit.
  • Wearing compression stockings can prevent swelling in the feet and ankles. Compression stockings apply pressure to your legs, improving blood circulation.
  • It seems counterintuitive, but drinking enough water (especially on hot days) can help reduce fluid retention in your body, which in turn can help reduce swollen feet. Drinking enough water on hot days ensures that you retain moisture less quickly. If you drink too little and there is a risk of a fluid shortage, your body will retain fluid.
  • Limit the amount of salt you eat, as excessive salt intake can cause fluid retention. Salt is known to retain moisture. The more salt you consume, the more fluid your body retains.
  • Try to move your feet and ankles regularly to stimulate blood circulation. This can help reduce swelling.
  • Depending on the cause of the swelling, you can apply heat or ice to provide relief. Ice can help with inflammation, while heat can relax muscle tension.
  • Sometimes a doctor can prescribe medications to reduce swelling, such as diuretics (so-called ‘water pills’) to remove excess fluid from your body.


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