Swollen feet and ankles—often called edema—are a fairly common occurrence. In healthy people, foot swelling occurs occasionally and resolves spontaneously after resting and elevating the feet.
Feet and ankle swelling can have many minor or temporary causes. These causes can range from spending long periods of time walking or standing, air travel, long car rides and even diet. Foot, leg, and ankle swelling is also commonly associated with being overweight and with increased age.
Swelling occurs when fluid builds up in the space between the cells of your body. This happens because the body is having trouble fighting gravity to move blood and fluids back up the legs. So, the ankles, feet and even the legs can begin to swell.
For temporary swelling not accompanied by other symptoms, the first line of defense is elevation. Elevate the legs so they are higher than the heart, for maximum benefit. This also helps reduce pressure on the back of your knees, thighs and lower back. The use of leg wedges during sleep hours can also be highly effective in the reduction of swelling.
In addition, wearing compression socks or hosiery can relieve—and even prevent—temporary swelling of the feet and ankles. Compression socks are also an excellent option for those who spend long periods of time standing or who travel frequently. Not only do these socks help prevent or reduce swelling, they can also help reduce fatigue in the legs and feet.
Ways To Help Prevent And Reduce Minor Swelling Of Feet and Ankles
- Wear shoes and socks that fit properly and do not create excess binding
- Avoid wearing tight clothing that may constrict blood flow, especially in the legs
- Avoid standing in place for long periods of time
- Walk often to increase muscle activity and improve circulation
- When traveling, take breaks often to stand up and move around
- Avoid putting weight or pressure on the feet while sitting
- Drink plenty of water
- Limit salt intake
- Lose weight, if needed
When swollen feet and ankles occur with other symptoms, they can be a signal of more serious health problems involving the heart, kidney, liver or blood vessels. Be sure to consult a physician if you have ongoing issues with swollen feet and ankles and/or they are accompanied by other symptoms.
Call The Doctor If
- There’s a change, such as an increase in the swelling in one or both legs
- Swelling is accompanied by redness (in one area or overall)
- Swelling is accompanied by pain
It’s very important to pay attention to your feet. Feet do not swell up on their own. If a certain activity is causing swollen feet, it may be best to avoid that activity as much as possible. It’s also important to inform every doctor you may see of all medications you are taking. Simple changes in lifestyle and diet can improve overall health and prevent other foot problems.