If you spend a long and tiring day on beach, travel nonstop or walk around landmarks and shopping centers, you might experience swelling in feet, legs and ankle by day end. Swollen feet result from a number of underlying causes.
Medical sciences recognize this condition as peripheral edema, which occurs due to accumulation of excess fluid in lower tissues.
The Science Behind Swelling
According to experts at the Mayo Clinic, when capillaries start leaking, the kidneys overwork to compensate the amount of fluid lost from blood vessels. It starts holding water and sodium in large quantities.
Consequently, fluids swiftly circulate throughout the body and accumulate in particular tissues. It causes development of pressure in the capillaries that tend to leak even more. The capillaries release more fluids in the surrounding tissues. As a result, various parts of body, such as ankles, feet, legs and hands swell up.
In order to get rid of swelling in peripheral body parts, you need to understand its origin. Bloated feet may result from lack of movement and a variety of disorders. Here is a list of common factors.
1) Aging contributes to peripheral edema. Our body becomes slow and inactive with age. Senior citizens cannot move regularly. Sitting or sleeping in the same position for a prolonged period causes fluid accumulation in the lower extremities.
2) Even the young and healthy ones experience puffiness from time to time. Earth’s gravitation pull is the chief reason behind it. Gravity tends to pull body fluids downwards. If you stand on your feet for a long period, they will swell up more.
3) If you walk on rough and stony terrain, you may experience inflammation, bloating and slight pain in the soles.
4) Sudden trauma or injury in lower extremities, high salt intake, improper sodium retention in the body, overuse of laxatives and drug contributes to swelling. A few prescription drugs including anti-inflammation and non-steroidal drugs, vasodilators (drugs that unblock blood vessels), calcium channel inhibitors, thiazolidiones and hormones like estrogen may cause peripheral edema.
5) Sometimes, it indicates a serious disease or disorder. Malfunctioning liver, heart and kidney can also lead to swollen feet. Renal failure, liver cirrhosis, gouts, stones, congestive heart failure, diabetes and allergies are a few disorders that indicate the same.
Liver cirrhosis occurs from excessive use of alcohol or drug and sometimes from poisoning. It inhibits normal functioning of liver by blocking the production of chemicals that regulate fluid circulation inside the body. In this condition, pressure develops in the hepatic portal vein.
This large blood vessel carries blood from spleen, pancreases and intestine into the liver. Due to increasing pressure, fluids leak out from narrow gaps present on the capillary walls. Fluids build up in the abdominal cavity, gradually reaching down to your lower limbs.
In case of seasonal allergies or infection, the lymphatic system fails or slows down. Lymph vessels and nodes may not work properly, consequently discharging lymph fluids in the neighboring tissues. Similar conditions occur in the case of CVI.
Chronic Venous Insufficiency or CVI results from temporary damages in veins. They cannot pump sufficient amount of blood into the heart and release it in the lower extremities.
Nephrotic syndrome in kidneys causes fluid amassing inside the body, whereas congestive heart failure may cause blood to flow back in the legs. Other factors include malnourishment, carbohydrate deficiency and arthritis. They produce similar consequences.
6) Many middle-aged women experience excessive swelling in their feet during pregnancy (especially towards) the end. It occurs due to changes in hormone level and weight gain. Pregnancy fills a woman’s body with excessive blood and tissue fluid.
Sometimes, high blood pressure may cause vessels to leak blood into abdominal tissues and legs. You may experience the same conditions when you abuse birth control pills.
7) When muscles, ligaments or tissues of legs, ankles and feet undergo stress, they get inflamed. Minor damage causes them to fill with blood, resulting in swollen feet. This condition prevails during fractures, sprains and injuries.
Often, peripheral edema accompanies soreness and slight pain, following the injuries. It worsens when serious tissue damages are followed by development of blue, black, yellow, green or purple discoloration (referred to as bruising).
Such injuries are not of serious nature as they are confined to the injured area. Moreover, we can easily discern the incidents that cause swelling.
How To Identify The Initial Symptoms:
It is necessary to identify the first symptoms of edema so that you can reduce swelling before it leads to any serious damages.
1) It is easy to identify puffiness or bloating as the skin becomes chapped, shiny and stretched. Affected areas of your feet appear fat and sore. You feel like walking on stumps rather than feet. If you poke the skin, you can easily see dimples on the surface.
2) It is easier to reconnect the dots if you’re using blood pressure medications, MAO inhibitors (anti-depressants) and hormone replacements at regular intervals. Keep a sharp eye on your daily dose. Swelling is a common side effect of antidepressants and blood pressure medicines like amlodipine, felodipine, nifedipine, dilitiazem and verapamil.
3) Folks, who are suffering from weak veins or venous insufficiency, can feel blood pooling inside their limbs. Blood buildup causes slight discoloration in skin, thickening of epidermal layer, pressure in the tissues, ulcers and the pain worsens when you move, stand, sit or lift your legs all of a sudden.
4) In case you suspect kidney failure or urine infection, you need to look out for the signs of fatigue, bruising, metallic (or slight bitter) taste in the mouth, loss of sensation in hands and legs. Likewise, swelling in the case of liver failure occurs with abdominal pain, typhoid and jaundice.
It is difficult to spot symptoms that arise from organ failures and heart disorders as they occur very randomly.
Medical diagnosis is extremely important. When you notice the first signs of swelling, you should immediately make an appointment to see a qualified doctor. If the symptoms do not disappear within a week and interrupt your daily activities, you should take tests to confirm its cause.
Medical diagnosis includes physical examination, blood test, urinalysis, ECG (electrocardiogram), X-rays, ultrasound of the abdomen and analysis of lungs, liver and heart.
Proper diagnosis helps you get rid of swelling very quickly.
When daily activities and minor factors result in swelling, you can try the basic treatment. It does not address the underlying causes but aims to reduce swelling by making minor changes in your lifestyle. With proper rest and management, you can easily alleviate any signs of discomfort, pain and puffiness.
1) Get off your feet immediately, as soon as you experience any injuries. Standing on injured legs exacerbates puffiness and pain. You need to sit or lay down in a comfortable chair.
2) The first line of action is to dip your legs in warm water containing Epsom Bath Salt. It reduces bloating and discomfort. Moreover, Epsom salt is a therapeutic substance, which soothes, relaxes and softens the skin of your feet. You can easily find them at local drugstores.
3) You should apply cold compress to the affected area. If it is not available, just wrap ice in a soft towel and place it on your feet. Make sure that you keep it there for 10 to 15 minutes for successful results. You can repeat the process at least three times. If you happen to experience occasional swelling, you can reapply ice four to eight times a day.
You can reduce swelling in the absence of ice, as well. Frozen peas wrapped in airtight plastic bags or clothes work wonders.
1) You should prevent dehydration. Dehydration causes your blood to become thick. The blood vessels constrict, inhibiting the flow of blood to your heart. This may cause blood to flow downwards. Therefore, you must drink at least 64 oz of water on a daily basis. Intake of water helps reduce puffiness, flushes toxins out and keeps your organs healthy.
Urine color is a good indicator for dehydration. The color of your urine should be transparent. Yellow colored urine indicates dehydration.
2) Avoid alcohol and caffeinated beverages. They increase urine production and cause dehydration.
3) Cherry is a beneficial fruit that helps you get rid of swelling, inflammation and pain, in a natural manner. Athletes, body builders and gymnasts drink a glass of fresh, natural and unsweetened cherry juice to recover from strenuous workouts. Not only this, but cherry also relieves discomfort, muscle injuries and headaches.
4) When old age causes swelling, you should switch to comfortable orthopedic shoes. Wear padded footwear.