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Swollen feet - general information

Article written by: GEORGIANA TACHE, MD, Medical rehabilitation doctor

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Swollen feet - general information

Swelling of the feet is a relatively common symptom in most people. In itself, it is not a disease but rather a symptom of an underlying disease. Swelling of the ankles and feet usually does not cause concern, especially if you have been sitting or walking a lot. But feet and ankles that remain swollen or are accompanied by other symptoms could signal a serious health problem.
For these cases, the Centrokinetic clinic is ready to offer complex recovery programs (fizioterapie, physical therapy, ERGON, lymphatic drainage, Tecar Winback therapy, KinesioTaping Rockford).


This is a collection of lymph fluid in the tissues that can develop due to problems with the lymph vessels or after removing the lymph nodes. Lymph is a protein-rich fluid that normally travels along with an extensive network of vessels and capillaries. It filters through the lymph nodes, which trap and destroy unwanted substances, such as bacteria. However, fluid movement can be blocked when there is a problem with the vessels or lymph nodes. Lymphedema is common after radiation therapy or lymph node removal in cancer patients.

Venous insufficiency

Swelling of the ankles and feet is often an early symptom of venous insufficiency, a condition in which blood improperly moves upward from the legs back to the heart. Usually, the veins keep the blood flowing in the right direction with one-way valves. When these valves are damaged or weakened, blood flows back through the vessels, and fluid drains into the soft tissue of the lower legs, especially the ankles and soles. Chronic venous insufficiency can lead to skin changes, skin ulcers, and infections.


Swelling of the feet and ankles can be a sign of infection. People with diabetic neuropathy or other nerve problems in the feet have a higher risk of foot infections. If you have diabetes, it is important to check your feet daily, as nerve damage can block the sensation of pain and foot problems can progress quickly.

Blood clots
Blood clots that form in the veins of the legs can stop blood flow from the legs back to the heart and can cause swelling of the ankles and feet. Blood clots can be superficial (occurring in the veins just under the skin) or deep (a condition known as deep vein thrombosis). Deep clots can block one or more of the major veins in the legs. These blood clots can be life-threatening if they rupture and move to the heart and lungs.

Heart, liver or kidney disease
Sometimes swelling can indicate a problem such as heart, liver or kidney disease. Swollen ankles can be a sign of heart failure. Kidney disease can also cause swelling of the foot and ankles. When the kidneys do not function properly, fluid can build up in the body. Liver disease can affect the production of albumin, which prevents blood from leaking from the blood vessels into the surrounding tissues. Inadequate albumin production can lead to fluid leakage. Gravity causes fluid to build up more in the legs and ankles, but it can also build up in the abdomen and chest.

Side effects of medications
Many medications can cause swelling of the legs and ankles as a possible side effect. These include:

  • Hormones such as estrogen (found in oral contraceptives and hormone replacement therapy) and testosterone
  • Calcium channel blockers, a type of blood pressure medication
  • Steroids including androgenic and anabolic steroids, and corticosteroids such as prednisolone
  • Antidepressants, including tricyclic antidepressants and monoamine oxidase inhibitors
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Medicines for diabetes

Symptoms of swollen feet

The symptoms of swollen feet and ankles depend on the underlying causes of the condition. In general, the swelling caused by edema, pregnancy, medication, and most conditions causes bilateral edema (present on both the legs and ankles). Usually, it begins as a soft, fluffy extension of the skin on the feet, which spreads rapidly. (often in a few hours) at the ankles. Skin color is often normal or slightly pale.

Positioning on your back with your legs raised above the heart level can help reduce swelling within a few hours. However, the swelling becomes chronic in some chronic diseases and with some medications taken for long periods. The skin becomes stiffer, reddish, and sometimes slightly discolored or stained, and will not return to normal after a few hours of elevation. For example, many people with chronic congestive heart failure will have chronic bilateral swelling of the legs and ankles with skin changes. With swollen feet, walking becomes difficult, painful, and the skin on the legs and ankles stretches a lot.

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What is edema

Edema is swelling caused by excess fluid trapped in body tissues. Although edema can affect any part of the body, you may notice more in your hands, arms, legs, and ankles. Edema can result from medication, pregnancy, or an underlying disease - often congestive heart failure, kidney disease, or liver cirrhosis.

Medications to eliminate excess fluids and reduce the amount of salt in food often relieve edema. When edema is a sign of an underlying disease, the disease itself requires separate treatment.

Signs of edema include:
  • Swelling of the tissue directly under the skin, especially in the legs or arms
  • Stretched or glowing skin
  • Skin that keeps potholes after being pressed for a few seconds
  • Increased abdominal size
Mild edema can be caused by pregnancy, premenstrual symptoms, consuming too much salt, or standing still for too long. Certain medications, such as: can cause this type of swelling:
  • thiazolidinediones (used to treat diabetes)
  • blood pressure medications
  • steroids
  • anti-inflammatory drugs
  • estrogen.
Edema can also be caused by a more serious medical problem, such as:
  • kidney disease or injury
  • congestive heart failure
  • veins that are weak or damaged
  • a lymphatic system that is not working properly
Mild edema will usually go away without medical treatment. However, if you have a more severe case of edema, it can be treated with medication.

When to visit a doctor in case of swelling of the legs

Seek emergency medical attention if you have swollen legs and any of the following signs or symptoms that may indicate a blood clot or a serious heart condition:
  • Chest pain
  • Difficult breathing
  • Weight in exertion or lying in bed
  • Fainting or dizziness
  • Coughing up blood
Also, seek immediate care in case of swelling of the foot:
  • It happens suddenly and for no apparent reason
  • It is related to a physical injury, such as a fall, a sports accident, or a car accident
  • It appears on one leg and is painful or is accompanied by cold and pale skin
Non-urgent problems with swelling of the legs, however, need prompt care. Swelling of the foot, which is the side effect of a medicine, can look exactly like swelling of the foot caused by a kidney disorder. Schedule a consultation so that your doctor can diagnose the underlying problem.

Before making an appointment with your doctor, consider the following tips:
  • Limit the amount of salt in your diet.
  • Put a pillow under your feet when you go to bed; it can reduce the swelling associated with fluid accumulation.
  • Wear elastic stockings, but avoid tight stockings.
  • If you have to stand still for a long time, take frequent breaks and move if the movement does not cause pain.
Do not stop taking a medicine without talking to your doctor, even if you suspect that it may cause swelling of the foot. Pain medications can reduce painful swelling.

Possible complications of swelling of the legs

If you suffer from chronic swelling, this can lead to ulceration of the skin and a change in skin color. If ulcers develop, they can become infected.

Ulcers result from prolonged periods of inadequate blood flow to a certain area of the body and manifest themselves in the form of skin lesions that are very slow to heal. If blood flow is restricted, healing is delayed.

If skin infections occur, they can lead to additional complications, such as:
  • Formation of abscesses - An abscess is a painful buildup of pus that is usually caused by a bacterial infection.
  • Infectious Cellulite is a common bacterial infection of the skin that results in swelling and redness and is painful to the touch.
  • Necrotizing fasciitis is a severe bacterial infection that leads to the destruction of tissue under the skin; simply put, necrotizing fasciitis is a condition in which meat is eaten.
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How to treat swollen feet

Slight swelling usually goes away on its own, especially if you raise the affected limbs above the level of the heart. More severe swelling can be treated with medications that help the body eliminate excess fluid in the form of urine (diuretics). One of the most common diuretics is furosemide. However, your doctor will determine if these types of medications are a good option for you based on your personal medical history.

Long-term management usually focuses on treating the underlying cause of the swelling.
Once the cause has been established, you are recommended a personalized recovery program, which may include procedures such as physiotherapy, physical therapy, ERGON, lymphatic drainage, Tecar Winback therapy, KinesioTaping Rockford.

Medical treatment

If you seek medical attention, your doctor will determine what is causing the symptoms. Testing may include:
  • Blood Tests
  • Radiography
  • Electrocardiogram
If the swelling is caused by a medical condition, such as congestive heart failure, your doctor may prescribe diuretics. These drugs affect the kidneys and stimulate them to release fluids.

If the swelling is caused by an ongoing medical condition, such as rheumatoid arthritis, your treatment may turn into monitoring and preventing the condition.

Swelling due to injury may require resetting the bones, splint, cast, or surgery to repair the affected area.

If the swelling is painful, your doctor may prescribe a pain reliever or anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen or naproxen sodium.

Natural remedies for swollen feet

Several natural remedies can help you get rid of swelling in your feet. Here are some examples:

Epsom salt. Soak your feet and ankles for 15 to 20 minutes in a cold bath filled with Epsom salt to relieve the pain associated with swelling. If you have diabetic neuropathy in your feet, check your water with your hands first to avoid exposing your feet to extreme temperatures.

Magnesium supplements. Adding 200 to 400 mg of magnesium to your daily diet may help limit water retention and pain. Talk to your doctor before taking the supplement, as you should not use it if you have a kidney or heart condition.

Ginger is a natural diuretic that helps treat swollen feet. It helps dilute sodium, a major contributing factor to swelling. In addition, the anti-inflammatory property helps reduce swelling.


Massage is one of the best remedies for swollen feet. It creates pressure on the affected area, which helps to relax the muscles and improve circulation. It also encourages excess fluid to drain to reduce swelling.

Manual lymphatic drainage massage is often useful for reducing edema because it stimulates blood circulation, fluid movement, and the lymphatic system's function (detoxifying the body). Manual lymphatic massage maneuvers are often done in upward movements to the heart to encourage lymph movement.

If swelling of the feet is caused by pregnancy, consult a therapist who specializes in prenatal massage.

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Alternative treatments for swollen feet

The following remedies can help reduce edema and prevent it from returning. Before trying these self-care techniques, talk to your doctor to find out which ones are right for you.

Movement. Exercise and the use of muscles in the body affected by edema, especially the legs, can help pump excess fluid to the heart.

Lift. Keep the swollen part of the body above the level of the heart several times a day. In some cases, lifting the affected part of the body during sleep can be helpful.

Massage. Massaging the affected area toward the heart using firm but not painful pressure can help move excess fluid from the area.

Compression. If one of your limbs is affected by edema, your doctor may recommend that you wear compression stockings to prevent swelling. These garments maintain pressure on the limbs to prevent fluid collection in the tissue.

Protection. Keep the affected area clean, hydrated, and free of damage. Dry, cracked skin is more prone to scratches, cuts and infections.

Reduce salt intake. . Follow your doctor's suggestions for limiting the amount of salt you consume. Salt can increase fluid retention and aggravate edema.

Contraindications for people with swollen feet

Increased sodium intake can cause water retention inside the body. Consult your doctor to determine the right amount of sodium to take daily. Healthy adults should limit their sodium intake to 2300 mg per day. Here are some of the foods contraindicated for people with swollen feet:

Processed cereals

Some foods high in sodium that should be avoided are commercial pancakes and waffles, bran and ready-to-eat cereals, hot grains, popcorn, crackers and pretzels. These processed cereals usually contain a portion of sodium that is unhealthy and contributes to swelling and chronic edema.

Canned vegetables

Some canned vegetables contain large amounts of sodium. You should read the labels on the boxes carefully to avoid salty foods. You should also avoid frozen vegetables that contain added sauces.

Vegetable juice

Juice Vegetable and tomato juice also has high amounts of sodium and should be avoided altogether if you have edema. Although freshly squeezed vegetable juice is healthy, most canned and packaged vegetable juices have high levels of added sodium.

Processed meat

Like canned vegetables, processed meat also contains significant amounts of sodium. You should avoid eating sausages, bacon, sausages, ham and canned tuna.


Beer is a carbonated drink made from fermented carbohydrates. Beer not only leads to bloating and digestion problems, but can also contain high levels of sodium and flavor.

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How to prevent swelling of the feet

In many situations, swelling of the feet and ankles can be reduced or prevented. Here is a list of ways to reduce or prevent swelling of your ankles and feet:
  • Do exercises to improve fluid circulation and distribution.
  • Eat a healthy diet; Too much salt can cause fluid retention, high blood pressure and swelling.
  • Stop sitting or standing a few times a day and raise your legs and ankles above your heart.
  • Lose excess weight to retain less fluid and lower pressure on muscles and joints.
  • Consider using compression stockings.
  • Examine prescribed prescriptions and other medications; consult your doctor if medications may be responsible for fluid retention.
  • Avoid smoking, alcohol and other substances that can lead to underlying edema.

Proper nutrition for swollen feet

In addition to any medically recommended dietary options, the following foods have been shown to improve the symptoms of bloating for many edema sufferers:

Vitamin B

Vitamin B strengthens blood vessels and prevents fluid from leaking into nearby tissues. B vitamins can be found in whole grains, spinach, sea vegetables and red meat. Be careful not to eat red meat more than twice a week or the beneficial effects of B vitamins can be counteracted by the presence of meat compounds that promote inflammation.


Iron helps oxygen reach the cells of the body. Properly moving blood will reduce swelling and prevent fluid from entering your feet and other extremities. Iron can be found in dark greens, sea vegetables and other green vegetables.

Diuretic Vegetables

If you are not taking a diuretic, you can reduce swelling naturally by adding foods that are natural diuretics to your diet, such as green beans, pumpkin, grapes, beets, parsley, asparagus, pineapple, garlic and leeks.

Healthy fats

GUnhealthy fats contribute to edema by causing an inflammatory response. Prevent this by switching to healthy fats. Olive oil, coconut oil, palm oil and even butter and animal fats in moderation will regulate the body and prevent edema.

Antioxidants and Vitamin C

Antioxidants (one of which is vitamin C) are extremely important for preventing inflammation and promoting healthy blood vessels. The intake of antioxidants is one of the best long-term solutions for the prevention and treatment of edema and chronic inflammation. Red vegetables and fruits are rich in vitamin C and other antioxidants.


Potassium is an essential electrolyte that has a low level in many individuals who suffer from swollen feet. Without proper electrolyte balance, the body cannot absorb fluids properly, which can lead to swelling. Too little, but too much water can contribute to an electrolyte imbalance. You can adjust your potassium level by making sure you eat foods high in potassium (bananas are high in potassium) or take a potassium supplement.

Grape seed extract

Grape seed extract is an antioxidant that supports venous insufficiency. Weak veins cause swelling, allowing blood to enter the legs. Grape seed extract naturally strengthens veins and reduces the many causes of chronic edema.

Grape seed extract may interfere with some medications. Consult a doctor if you use blood thinners and have swelling.


Dandelion is a natural diuretic and can relieve some symptoms of edema. Dandelion is a powerful plant that reduces swelling, fights inflammation and strengthens veins. However, it can interfere with certain medications, such as lithium and antibiotics. If you are pregnant, consult your doctor before taking dandelion extract to relieve the symptoms of edema.

The importance of movement to prevent swelling of the feet

Moving and using the leg muscles can help pump excess fluid to the heart. Lifting exercises are very effective in reducing edema, especially in the elderly.

There are several types of exercises you can do to reduce swelling, depending on your physical condition and how swollen your legs are. Basic exercises include kicking, standing on tiptoes and moving your legs as if you were pedaling.

If you are more physically active, you can use light weights and do a walking program to help reduce water retention. Walking can improve this fluid retention in two ways. First, the continuous contraction and pumping of the leg muscles causes the extra fluid to be removed from the tissues. Second, the increased heart rate increases the blood circulation in the legs, which allows the elimination of fluid.

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Body Posture

When you lie down, raise your legs above heart level, if possible (ie at a 45-degree angle) so that the fluid can drain. However, do not do this if you have difficulty breathing. Increase leg activity. This will help you pump the fluid from your feet back into your heart. Take frequent breaks when you sit in a chair for a long time to get up and move.

Appropriate clothing and footwear to prevent swelling of the feet

Compression stockings help other swellings. These garments maintain pressure on the limbs to prevent fluid collection in the tissue.

Uncomfortable shoes that are narrow are a common cause of swollen feet. Regular footwear restricts blood circulation, causing fluid to build up in the surrounding areas. Avoid the discomfort of shoes that are too tight by wearing the right size of shoes. Also, choose a shoe that matches the shape of the foot.

Diet and healthy lifestyle

If you suffer from chronic edema, which is not caused by a specific problem, changing what you eat can make a big difference. By providing the body with the nutrients it needs to calm swelling, prevent inflammation and balance electrolytes, you will strengthen your blood vessels and prevent fluid leakage. With just a few simple changes to your diet and supplements, you may find that the symptoms of edema fade in just a week or two.

The best advice is to drink more water and consume less salt. Drinking lemon water helps eliminate excess fluid and toxins from the body, which can reduce swelling of the legs and other areas of the body caused by water retention. In addition, it helps keep the body hydrated and offers anti-inflammatory benefits.

Physical remedies for edema

  • In addition to herbs, supplements and dietary changes, research shows that physical remedies can have a positive effect on reducing the symptoms of bloating. Physical remedies are especially beneficial for edema caused by temporary changes, such as pregnancy or medication. You can find the following beneficial physical remedies for edema:
  • Massage
  • Acupuncture
  • Elevation
  • Hydrotherapy (three minutes of something hot applied to the swollen area followed by one minute of cold compression)
  • Support socks


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