Swelling in your feet can be a symptom of various disorders. In addition to causing discomfort, swollen feet can be a sign of a serious disorder. While your feet may swell in response to an injury or a long ride in an airplane or car, continual or recurrent swelling can signal an underlying health condition that requires medical treatment.
Peripheral edema is the term for an abnormal buildup of fluid in your legs, ankles and thighs. Although seldom painful, swelling in your feet can make your shoes feel tight and uncomfortable, especially after spending long periods of time standing. Other symptoms such as facial puffiness, abdominal bloating, muscle aches and changes in your mental state can accompany swollen feet.
Edema that causes your feet to keep swelling up can be due to various activities and medical conditions. Common causes of recurrent swelling in your lower limbs include sitting or standing for long periods of time, hormonal changes during pregnancy and menstruation, allergic reactions to foods and insects, consuming excessive amounts of salt and exposure to high altitudes or heat. Underlying medical conditions, including thyroid disorders, heart disease, high or low blood pressure, infections, brain tumors and kidney disease, can all include the symptom of swollen feet.
Prevent recurrent swelling in your feet by exercising your legs. Movements that work your leg muscles, such as bicycling and swimming, can help pump the fluid in your legs back to your heart. Reduce the amount of salt in your diet to limit fluid retention and periodic swelling in your feet. When resting, elevate your legs above your heart to encourage the fluids to drain from your feet.
Notify your doctor of unusual and recurrent episodes of swelling, including swelling in your feet and ankles. Your doctor may prescribe diuretic medications to reduce the swelling in your feet. Some medications can cause swelling, such as the hormones estrogen and testosterone, as well as blood pressure medications, steroids and antidepressants. Your doctor may want to run certain tests such as urinalysis, chest X-rays and blood tests to determine if an underlying heart, lung or kidney disease is responsible for your swelling.
While many individuals experience occasional episodes of mild swelling, some cases require urgent medical care. Contact your doctor if you are pregnant and have more than mild swelling or if you have a history of liver disease or run a fever. Symptoms that may accompany swelling and may signal an emergency include shortness of breath and chest pain or tightness.