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Women who experience mild swelling during pregnancy may get relief from home remedies such as:
Why Are My Feet Swollen?
If one or both of your feet are swollen, it can be hard to move around. And it can hurt, too. It’s not always clear why it happens, but some health conditions can make it more likely.
This is when your body holds on to too much water. It can make your feet puffy as well as your hands and face. You might notice it after a long airplane flight or if you stand for hours at a time, and some women have it around their monthly period. It usually goes away on its own, but sometimes it can be a sign of a health problem like low protein levels, heart failure, or kidney or liver disease.
If you trip or take a wrong step, a swollen foot can be a sign of a broken bone or a sprain — when the tough, flexible tissue that connects the bones around your ankle tears. Your foot and ankle will likely swell as blood rushes to the area to help heal it. See your doctor if it hurts a lot, you can’t put weight on it, or it doesn’t look right.
Feet can swell as a natural part of pregnancy because a woman’s body holds on to more water when they’re expecting. It can be worse at the end of the day or after standing for a long time. It’s not usually a sign of a problem for mother or baby, but it can be uncomfortable.
While many moms-to-be have swollen feet, if the swelling comes along with a headache, nausea, trouble breathing, or belly pain, it could be a sign of this condition. Preeclampsia doesn’t start until at least 20 weeks into a pregnancy and is linked to high blood pressure. It can damage your liver or kidneys and can be serious if it’s not treated. Be sure to tell your doctor if you’ve had any of these symptoms.
This is when one or more of your lymph nodes — small glands that are part of your immune system — are damaged or removed, as often happens during cancer treatment. As a result, your body gets rid of less fluid, and that can lead to swelling in your arms, legs, and feet. It can also result from damage to lymphatic vessels or other abnormalities in the lymphatic system. One treatment for this is called pneumatic compression. You wear a sleeve over the affected areas, and air is pumped into it every so often to put pressure there and help move fluid away. Exercises, massage, and compression sleeves or socks may help, too.
Chronic Venous Insufficiency
To get back to your heart from your legs and feet, your blood travels in veins with “one-way valves” to keep it from flowing back down. These valves can get damaged as you get older or if you stand or sit for long periods of time. Damage to the valves also can be the result of blood clots. If your blood doesn’t return to your heart the way it should, it can collect in your legs and feet and cause swelling.
This is when your heart doesn’t pump blood like it should. If your blood isn’t flowing well in the right direction, it can back up in your legs and feet and cause swelling. With heart failure, it can be uncomfortable to lie down flat, your heart may beat faster or in an unusual rhythm, and you might have a hard time catching your breath. Get medical help right away if you notice these signs.
Your kidneys filter waste from your blood. If they aren’t working right — because of a condition like diabetes or high blood pressure — too much salt (sodium) can be left in your blood. That makes your body hold on to more water than it should. Gravity pulls the water down, and your feet and ankles can swell.
If you have hepatitis (inflammation in your liver) or you drink heavily, your liver has to fix itself over and over. That can cause scar tissue to replace healthy tissue, and your liver can stop working like it should. If that happens, too much fluid can pool in your belly, legs, and feet, making them swell.
What You Can Do: RICE
This stands for “rest,” “ice,” “compression,” and “elevation.” It’s most useful for sprains and broken bones, but it can help if your feet are swollen for other reasons, too. If you rest and put your feet up (elevate them), fluid will flow away from your feet. Ice makes blood vessels narrower — limiting blood flow — and helps with pain. Special extra-tight socks called compression socks, or wraps around your feet, can help push fluid away from your feet.
What You Can Do: Move Around
If you walk around every hour or so, it makes it harder for fluid to pool in any one place and keeps your blood moving through your body. Anything that moves your knees and flexes your ankles can help.
What You Can Do: Medicine
Some drugs used to treat high blood pressure, diabetes, and inflammation can make your body hold on to too much water, and that can make your feet swell. Other medications called diuretics can ease swelling — they help your body get rid of fluid by making you pee more often. Always talk to your doctor before changing or stopping your meds.
When to Call Your Doctor
Get medical help right away if your feet are swollen and you’re short of breath or have chest pain. These could be signs of fluid or a blood clot in your lungs. See your doctor if:
- Your swollen foot keeps a dimple after you press it.
- Your skin in the swollen area looks stretched or breaks.
- You have pain and swelling that doesn’t go away.
IMAGES PROVIDED BY:
American Cancer Society: “Lymph Nodes and Cancer.”
American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society: “How to Identify an Ankle Fracture,” “How to Care for a Sprained Ankle.”
Cleveland Clinic: “Chronic Venous Insufficiency,” “6 Best Fixes for Pain and Swelling in Your Feet and Ankles.”
HeartFailureMatters.Org: “What Is Heart Failure?”
Mayo Clinic: “Preeclampsia,” “Lymphedema,” “Heart failure,” “Cirrhosis,” “Edema.”
National Kidney Foundation: “About Chronic Kidney Disease.”
NHS: “Pregnancy and baby: Swollen ankles, feet and fingers.”
12 causes of swollen ankles
Ankles can become swollen for many different reasons, such as an injury, an infection, heart disease, or pregnancy. In most cases, swelling is due to injury or edema.
The term edema means swelling due to the accumulation of excess fluid. It is particularly common in the lower leg, ankles, and feet.
This article examines 12 causes of swollen ankles and covers some of the best treatment options.
People who sustain an injury to the foot or ankle may experience inflammation in that area, causing it to appear swollen.
Ankle sprains are common, accounting for up to 40% of sports-related injuries.
The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons recommends the following home treatment for a sprained ankle:
- immediately applying ice wrapped in a thin piece of cloth
- applying a compression wrap, bandage, or dressing
- elevating the foot above heart level
- taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen or naproxen, to ease the pain and reduce swelling
- wearing a walking boot or brace to provide ankle support
Bacterial infections in the skin are called cellulitis. People with diabetes are particularly prone to this type of infection.
Cellulitis can cause various symptoms, including redness, warm skin, and swelling that spreads rapidly. In rare cases, cellulitis can be life threatening without treatment.
People with cellulitis need to take antibiotics. It is essential to tell a doctor if the swelling does not reduce or gets worse after a few days of treatment.
Some medications can cause the ankles to swell as a side effect. Such medications include:
- birth control pills and others containing estrogen
- testosterone pills
- calcium channel blockers for high blood pressure
People who suspect their swollen ankle may be a side effect of medication may wish to talk with a doctor.
They may prescribe diuretic medications or suggest methods for reducing the swelling if it is uncomfortable.
Chronic venous insufficiency (CVI) is a common cause of edema. CVI is a condition that typically affects the valves in the leg veins but may occur in other locations.
CVI can be painful and uncomfortable. It may also cause noticeable changes to the skin.
These valves usually make sure that blood flows toward the heart. In CVI, the valves malfunction and allow blood to flow backward and pool in the lower legs and ankles.
A doctor can help a person with CVI develop a personalized treatment plan.
Examples of some treatment options include:
- wearing compression stockings to reduce swelling and help heal skin ulcers
- avoiding prolonged sitting or standing
- keeping the legs raised to improve blood flow
- walking or doing exercises that build the calf muscles
- undergoing ablation, which uses heat or chemicals to destroy damaged veins
Sometimes, a blood clot, or thrombosis, can develop in one of the veins in the arm or leg. This is deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and requires urgent medical attention.
DVT obstructs the flow of blood returning to the heart, causing it to build up in the affected limb.
Sometimes, the body can compensate for the blockage by gradually diverting blood through smaller neighboring veins. Over time, these veins get larger and can drain blood from the limb.
If these veins do not increase in size, the limb may remain swollen. Persistent pain and swelling after a DVT is called post-thrombotic syndrome.
People who experience a DVT should consider:
- elevating the affected limb
- wearing compression stockings to promote blood flow
- taking anticoagulant medications, or blood thinners
- undergoing a stent procedure, during which a surgeon inserts a tube into the vein to keep it open
During pregnancy, the body produces more blood and bodily fluids to support the developing fetus.
Swelling is a common side effect of pregnancy, especially in the third trimester . It can affect the ankles, feet, legs, face, and hands.
Slight swelling is common and usually harmless. However, sudden swelling of the hands and face could signify a potentially life threatening condition called preeclampsia.
Women who experience mild swelling during pregnancy may get relief from home remedies such as:
- eating foods high in potassium
- reducing salt intake
- avoiding caffeine
- wearing comfortable shoes
- wearing support stockings
- avoiding standing for long periods
- elevating the feet when resting
- applying cold compresses
- wearing loose-fitting clothes
- limiting time outdoors during hot weather
- resting in a pool
Preeclampsia is a life threatening condition that can occur during the second or third trimester of pregnancy or up to 6 weeks after giving birth.
The condition involves dangerously high blood pressure and protein in the urine. It can cause various symptoms, including headaches, changes in vision, weight gain, and edema.
Preeclampsia that occurs during pregnancy can also affect the fetus.
It requires urgent medical treatment. Treatment may include medications to prevent seizures and lower blood pressure.
Delivering the baby is the most effective treatment, although some people may experience worsening symptoms before they get better.
Lymphedema is a swelling that affects the soft tissues in the arms or legs, including the ankles. It is due to a buildup of a fluid called lymph. This is mainly composed of white blood cells, which help fight infection.
Lymphedema occurs when there is a blockage or other damage to the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system is a network of tissues and organs that help rid the body of infection and keep fluids in balance.
Lymphedema can result from infections, cancer, and surgical removal of the lymph nodes. Some hereditary conditions can also cause lymphedema.
Damage to the lymphatic system is irreversible, so treatment aims to reduce swelling and prevent other symptoms.
- wearing pressure garments and bandages
- increasing heart and respiration rate through exercise
- getting a gentle massage from a trained therapist