Swollen feet and ankles are frequent symptoms for many of us. This unpleasant condition is usually caused by prolonged standing or walking, wearing uncomfortable shoes, or pregnancy. But in some cases puffy feet and ankles are a red flag for more serious health issues, which shouldn’t be ignored.
Here at Healthli we’ve taken a closer look at underlying health problems that can cause feet and ankle swelling, and here’s what we’ve learned.
1. Your veins may be blocked.
When your venous system functions properly, the valves in your veins do not let the blood pool down in your legs. As we age, the valves tend to work less efficiently, and we may retain the blood in our feet.
Deep-vein thrombosis is another vein-related problem that can lead to leg swelling. Blood clots block the return of blood from the legs to the heart, keeping the fluid down in your feet. Without treatment, this condition may get dangerous, as blood clots can travel in your body, if they get loose. These traveling blood clots could reach the lungs causing a pulmonary embolism, or even lead to an ischemic stroke if they block an artery that supplies blood to the brain.
2. Your heart may be working improperly.
Leg swelling, or edema, may also be caused by heart failure. When the heart doesn’t have enough pumping power, it fails to push the blood from your feet to the upper part of the body.
Leaky heart valves may be one of those types of heart failure that cause feet and ankles puff up. Be particularly careful if you notice any other symptoms of heart disease that could include chest pain, fatigue, and shortness of breath.
3. You may have kidney disease.
One of the main functions of our kidneys is getting rid of the extra fluid in our body. When the kidneys cannot fulfill this function, extra fluid and sodium stagnate in the body and cause swelling.
This condition may be caused by urinary infections that do damage to the drainage system of the kidneys (for example, pyelonephritis). Edema caused by kidney failure usually occurs in the legs and around the eyes.
4. There may be problems with your liver.
Apart from its other functions, the liver produces a protein called albumin. This protein keeps fluid in our bloodstream and doesn’t let it leak into our tissues. Some liver diseases may lower the level of albumin in the blood, and cause fluid to pass from the bloodstream into the body’s tissues. In this case, swelling may not only occur in the feet and ankles, but in other parts of the body as well.
5. Your lymphatic system may fail to drain bodily fluids.
Together, with blood vessels, our lymphatic vessels deliver oxygen and nutrients to tissues and organs and remove waste and CO2. When lymphatic vessels get blocked and fail to perform their drainage function, this may result in an abnormal buildup of fluid called lymphedema. Lymphedema can occur due to infections, surgery, trauma, radiation, cancer treatment, and other factors.
6. The medications you are taking may be unsuitable for you.
Quite often, swelling in the feet and ankles may be a side effect of the medications you are taking. These medications include NSAIDs, oral contraceptives, oral steroids, and others. If your legs are swollen, try to figure out whether it may be connected with taking a particular medication.
If feet and ankle swelling are caused by uncomfortable shoes or prolonged standing, this is easily treated at home by just getting proper rest and lifting your legs. If the symptoms don’t seem to disappear after a long rest, or if you suspect more serious health issues are behind them, you should immediately schedule an appointment with your doctor.