by Guest Blogger Rose Caillier, DPM
Occasional swollen feet and ankles are quite common and often do not pose much concern. Whether it is due to a strenuous exercise or a long day of shopping, increased daily activities on the feet can lead to accumulation of fluid called edema. Normally, blood flow along with muscle contraction pushes blood in one direction from our feet back to the heart. But when valves in the veins do not work properly, fluid can back up and pool around the feet and ankles.
Swelling in the feet and ankles is also a common finding in pregnancy. Increase in blood volume along with a growing fetus puts pressure on the veins causing fluid to be pushed out into the surrounding tissues.
Here are some things a person can do to help reduce swelling in the feet and ankles.
Move the Feet. Standing and sitting for long periods of time (like during airplane flights and car rides) does not allow the muscles to actively pump blood in the veins. Stretch the legs, take walks down the aisle, or flex the feet up and down several times to keep moving. A simple exercise is to trace the alphabet in the air with the feet.
Elevate the Legs. When sitting, the feet should be propped up on a chair or stool. Allowing the legs to hang down allows gravity to further collect fluid around the feet and ankles. While lying down, a pillow placed under the heels or legs can keep the feet elevated.
Apply Compression. Support stockings found at most drug stores help control swelling. If they are not worn to sleep with, they should be applied first thing in the morning even before getting out of bed.
Get a Massage. A Foot massage can be soothing and helpful. Just a 5-10 minute foot massage per day can help stimulate circulation.
Consult a Doctor. Feet that stay swollen can be a sign of serious medical conditions like heart, kidney, or liver failure. Other causes of swollen feet and ankles include: being overweight, increased age, infection, sprain/strain or fracture, a blood clot in the leg, and side-effects of certain medications. The doctor may even prescribe medications to help the body eliminate excess fluid and recommend a diet low in sodium.
Since a swollen foot can be a symptom of an underlying problem, it is wise to determine its cause particularly if there is pain or other areas of the body swells. People who have loss of feeling in the feet, like a person with diabetic neuropathy, should seek medical attention right away if swelling occurs. Otherwise, keeping an active lifestyle with regular exercise and proper nutrition will help maintain good circulation.
Rose Caillier, DPM, is a board certified podiatrist who has written for Podiatry Management magazine, is a contributing writer for The National Podiatric Medical Association’s newsletter Footnotes, and maintains her own blog at www.FootScribe.com. You can connect with Rose on Twitter; her handle is @FootScribe.