Common causes

Sunday, June 24, 2018

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THERE are many different reasons for swollen feet. In most cases, it is a temporary condition without much cause for concern.

However, if the feet and ankles remain swollen for prolonged periods of time, it may indicate an underlying condition that needs to be treated.

Here are some of the most common causes of swelling, with solutions as to how to reduced it.


Swollen feet are common during pregnancy, especially by the fifth month. The body retains and produces more fluid at this time.

If there is a sudden noticeable swelling in the face and hands, this may be a sign of pre-eclampsia and high blood pressure. It is often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, disturbed vision, and shortness of breath. This condition requires urgent medical treatment.

To overcome milder symptoms, patients are advised to:

• Elevate the feet whenever possible.

• Avoid salt.

• Avoid hot weather.

• Increase their water intake.

• Wear adjustable shoes that can accommodate the changes in foot shape throughout the day.


When drinking alcohol, the body retains more water. This usually subsides after a few days, but if it doesn't, this can be cause for concern regarding the liver and kidneys.

To treat swollen feet due to excessive alcohol consumption, drink plenty water, elevate your feet and, most importantly, reduce your consumption.

Kidney disease

If the kidneys are not functioning properly, the body will retain salt, which will in turn cause swelling. Other symptoms may include: tiredness, poor appetite, muscle cramps, shortness of breath, itchy skin, increased urination, and high blood pressure.

The underlying cause of kidney disease needs urgent attention; options regarding treatment are low-protein diets, blood pressure and diuretic medication, calcium and vitamin D supplements.

Liver disease

Liver disease is mainly due to alcohol poisoning, obesity, genetic factors, and viruses. Symptoms may include dark urine, jaundice, itchy skin, bruising, and pale or dark stool. Liver disease requires weight control, alcohol control, medication, and possible surgery.


Certain medications will cause the feet to swell as a side effect. These include oestrogen, testosterone, ACE inhibitors, anti-depressants, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, steroids, calcium blockers, and certain diabetic medications. Always check with your doctor about the potential side effects of your medication. He or she may adjust your dosage or prescribe a diuretic.

Heart failure

Heart failure occurs when the heart is unable to pump the blood around the body efficiently. As well as swollen feet, patients may also experience a rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, chest pain, stubborn coughs with blood streaked phlegm, swollen abdomen, poor appetite, fatigue, and tiredness. These patients will often wake up in the mornings and their feet are still swollen.

If these symptoms are experienced, patients must seek help urgently from their doctor who will ensure lifelong management.


Infections caused by a burn, insect bites, ulcer, etc, will also cause swelling. These need to be managed with dressings and antibiotic therapy.

Blood clots

Blood clots in the veins of the legs can cause swelling. The area may also be painful, warm, red, and lead to systemic fever. This is a medical emergency and needs to be treated as a matter of urgency.

To avoid this problem, people should increase their water intake, wear support stocking on long flights, exercise, and avoid long periods of sitting.


When the lymph nodes are damaged or removed like in cancer treatments, lymphoedema may occur. Without the nodes, the body retains water and the legs and feet will swell.

Patients with lymphoedema may experience skin infections, cellulitis, poor range of motion, and thickening of the skin. The condition cannot be cured, but can be managed by lymphatic drainage massage, compression stockings and complete decongestive therapy.

So, swollen feet are usually indicative of an underlying condition. If the swelling is prolonged, visit your doctor.

Angela Davis BSc (Hons) DPodM MChS is a podiatrist with offices in Montego Bay (293- 7119), Mandeville (962-2100), Ocho Rios (974-6339), Kingston (978-8392), and Savanna-la-Mar (955-3154). She is a member of the Health and Care Professions Council in the United Kingdom.

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