Pedal edema is the medical term health experts use to refer to swollen feet. There are several conditions that usually cause feet to swell such as pregnancy, injury and walking for long distances, among others.
However, there are instances when your feet swell; yet, you are neither pregnant, nor injured and the furthest you have walked is from your living room couch to the fridge.
According to Dr George Bwesigye from Najeera Hospital, pedal edema is caused by fluid in the tissues, either caused by something local to the swollen area such as an injury or inflammation, or from the body’s retention of water.
“Whether the swelling is slight or considerable, it is always an indication that something is not right. Normally if one foot is swollen, something is wrong with the foot. If both feet are swollen, it is not the feet, but water retention caused by various conditions some of which are serious and should serve as red flags to a larger health issue and thus the need to see a doctor,” Dr Bwesigye explains.
According to Dr Bwesigye, foot swelling is one of the signs of heart failure. Heart failure is when your heart is unable to pump enough blood to complete the circulation process; therefore blood gets retained in the veins leading to fluid buildup.
“One should be concerned if they are also experiencing shortness of breath and if they press the feet, the skin stays indented,” the doctor explains. He urges the person with these symptoms to seek urgent medical help.
There are a number of conditions that can cause poor functioning of the kidney including inflammation and kidney damage.
Any of these conditions will interfere with the kidney’s major role which is balancing fluids in the body. The individual then usually ends up experiencing swelling in other parts of the body including the feet.
Another critical condition that causes feet to swell is cirrhosis of the liver. Conditions such as Hepatitis B and C or alcoholism cause the liver to become scarred which interferes with blood flow to and in the liver. This causes high blood pressure in the veins going into the liver which leads to swelling not only in the legs and feet but also in the abdomen.
Dr Moses Semulya, a general physician, describes gout as a form of arthritis caused by an accumulation of uric acid in the body. This uric acid can be caused by certain foods, medication and medical conditions. “When this occurs, the uric acid turns into crystals which can accumulate in the joints, causing the pain and swelling associated with a gout attack,” Dr Semulya explains. Symptoms of gout include pain in the big toe, ankles, heels, redness, stiffness, heat, and swelling. If you are experiencing these symptoms, is it is advisable to be reviewed by a doctor for treatment. In addition to medication, the doctor will give dietary advice to manage the problem.
There are a lot of health complications that come with being overweight. One of them is swollen feet. The extra weight creates extra pressure and strain on your feet, and can make standing and walking uncomfortable or painful. Consistent pressure leads to weakened tendons and ligaments, issues with the ankles, posterior tibial tendonitis and swelling among others.
According to Dr Agatha Nambuya, an endocrinologist, hormonal changes caused by ovulation, contraception or hormone medication can also contribute to swelling in various parts of the body, including your feet. To relieve the swelling drink enough water, reduce salt intake and exercise to help with circulation.
She further notes that different medication can also cause feet to swell. For example, drugs mainly prescribed for diabetics make it harder to get sodium out of the body, which leads to swelling. Also, heart drugs known as direct vasodilators can also cause swelling.
“Vasodilation” means the drugs help open up the blood vessels to make blood flow more freely. Examples are Loniten (minoxidil) and Apresoline (hydralazine). Calcium channel blockers widen blood vessels by relaxing the muscles in vessel walls. This can also cause foot swelling, as can angiotensin receptor blockers, which prevent sodium from being flushed out of your body.
Check for lymphedema
Lymphedema is a condition that occurs when something goes wrong with your lymphatic system, which is part of your immune system. Lymphatic fluid carries infection-fighting white blood cells to different parts of the body. Clusters of lymph nodes throughout your body control the travel of this fluid.
But if your lymph nodes have been damaged or removed, say during surgery for cancer, the fluid will not drain properly and that causes swelling. Generally, swelling in the feet happens when the pelvic lymph nodes, which control lymph movement in your legs and feet, are injured or removed.
Blood clots known as deep vein thrombosis usually form when there is limited movement in the legs. “The blood clot causes pressure to increase in the affected area which then pushes the fluids in the blood out of the veins into the tissues,” Dr Semulya explains.
Blood clots are very lethal but if detected early can be treated. Those at risk of developing blood clots include the overweight, smokers, pregnant women, and those suffering from heart diseases, kidney conditions, a previous clot, cancer, or taking certain medications, such as birth control pills. Symptoms include intense pain, discomfort and swelling. The doctor advises anyone who experiences such symptoms to seek urgent medical help.
Treatment for swollen feet according to Dr Bwesigye varies depending on the cause. For proper and effective treatment, he advises the individual to visit a doctor for proper evaluation and treatment. Treatment usually involves medications and lifestyle changes. Reducing salt intake and eating healthier foods can reduce fluid retention not only in the feet and ankles but also in the lungs. The sodium in salt is the biggest dietary culprit when it comes to retaining water in general.
Doctors recommend that adults take in no more than 2,300 mg of sodium every day, or about a teaspoon of salt per day. Most of the sodium people consume comes not from the salt shaker but from processed and restaurant food, where it is hidden among a list of ingredients and used as a preservative. Prime sources include cold cuts, processed snacks, frozen meals, canned soups, bread, and salad dressing. Go easy on all of these, and instead focus on sodium-free items such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and whole grains while avoiding processed foods.
Dr Bwesigye says other lifestyle changes include exercising your muscles. The contraction of calf muscles helps to push the blood back up to the heart. So doing calf raises, going for a walk are helpful. “Exercising and eating healthy will also help you maintain healthy body weight which is effective in reducing putting extra weight and pressure on the feet that results in swelling. Another simple way to reduce swelling in the feet is to keep them in an elevated position to facilitate blood flow,” he says.
Take breaks to move around if your work requires you to sit for long periods of time.
Treat yourself to a massage
A massage therapist can do wonders for swollen feet and ankles. Do not be shy about mentioning the problem when you get to your appointment, so she or he can focus on getting things moving in your lower extremities. If you are pregnant, find a therapist who specializes in prenatal massage. A prenatal massage therapist will be much more knowledgeable about how to make you comfortable. Seriously, I have never had so many pillows around me in my life, but all of that really does help make it a more beneficial experience.
Do a salt water soak
Adding a healthy dose of Epsom salts to the tub is another way to boost that bath. You can also just use a bucket and soak your feet and ankles. If your calves are swollen, too, a bath is probably your best bet.
Grab some grapefruit essential oil
A warm bath can also help with swelling, and you can give that water a boost with a few drops of grapefruit essential oil! You can also just fill a bucket with nice, warm water to soak in. If baths are not your thing, you can also mix a few drops of grapefruit oil with a carrier oil like olive or sweet almond oil and give yourself a little foot and leg massage. As you rub your feet, ankles, and calves, focus your pressure upward, rather than downward or in a circular motion.