Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention
Sore, swollen feet and legs aren’t unusual after taking long hikes or after standing all day. But what is going on if your feet and legs are swollen even on the down days? The following conditions are some possible causes:
Edema, or peripheral edema to be precise, is swelling in the feet and legs. It’s caused by inflammation or by a buildup of fluid.
Symptoms of Edema
The most common symptom of edema is obvious- swelling. The swelling is more apparent in the lower extremities (legs, ankles, and feet) due to gravity.
There are many possible causes, but some of the most common reasons for swollen feet and legs include:
- Age: Edema is much more common in older people than in younger.
- Weight: Being overweight increases your risk of edema.
- Pregnancy: Swollen feet and legs are common during pregnancy due to the additional fluids the pregnant body retains.
- Injury: Injuries, particularly to the foot or ankle, often cause inflammation and swelling.
- Infection: Leg infections such as cellulitis can cause edema.
- Poor blood flow: You may develop venous insufficiency, a condition where the veins and valves that regulate blood flow become damaged, causing blood to leak back down to the lower extremities.
- Blood Clot: Deep Venous Thrombosis (DVT) can cause lower extremity swelling, but this almost always affects only one leg and may be associated with tenderness and warmth.
- Drug side effects: If your swelling has accompanied a change in your drug regimen, check with your doctor to determine whether this could be the cause of your swelling. Several medications can cause foot and leg swelling as a side effect.
Treating Swollen Feet and Legs
It is always important to see your doctor to determine how serious your problems may be. See your doctor right away if your swelling is accompanied by shortness of breath, if you have a fever, if your swollen area is warm or painful to the touch, or if you have a history of heart, kidney, or liver disease.
Barring any of these more serious symptoms, there are several effective ways to ease swollen foot and leg pain. Support socks can comfort tired, swollen legs and feet by providing padding and gentle compression. Leg massagers can aid circulation and rub away tension in swollen legs. Remember to keep your feet elevated above your heart when possible as this also can help reduce swelling.
Preventing Edema in the Legs and Feet
How can you prevent edema in the first place? WebMD recommends that you elevate your feet whenever possible. If you’re sitting most of the day, either at home or in a vehicle, take a break every hour or two to walk around to get your blood flowing.
Exercise! It helps keep your weight down, and it aids in circulation as well. Low impact exercisers can do the trick.
Don’t forget diet: it’s particularly important to keep you salt intake low, and to drink plenty of liquids.
Don’t smoke. If you do, stop. Smoking is hard on your heart and therefore on your circulation too.
Your feet are important to you. Take care of them.