Swollen feet or legs: Why does it happen; is it harmless, know when it is time to see a doctor



  • Frequent fliers/travellers or those who have to stand/walk/sit a lot at work experience swelling on the feet, ankles, even legs. That is normal. But swollen ankles and swollen feet when accompanied by other symptoms could signal a serious health problem.

    Swollen Ankles and Feet: When to know the swelling on feet signals serious disease?

    Various reasons why one can have swollen feet:

    1. Reaction from medication: Many drugs can cause possible side effects that may include swelling in the feet and ankles. If you suspect swelling may be related to a drug you are taking, speak to your doctor. Your doctor will take a call on whether it is necessary to change the medication or the dosage.
    2. Pregnancy complications: Most pregnant women do experience some bit of swelling on the feet as the pregnancy advances. But one should see a doctor if there is sudden or excessive swelling, especially if accompanied by other symptoms such as abdominal pain, headaches, nausea and vomiting etc. In some high-risk pregnancies, preeclampsia is a condition that manifests itself with such symptoms and one must see a doctor immediately.
    3. Foot or ankle injury: An injury to the foot or ankle can lead to swelling. If you sprain your ankle accidentally or injure the ligaments while walking, running etc. the ligaments that hold the ankle in place get stretched beyond their normal range, thus causing the swelling.
    4. Venous insufficiency: Swelling of the ankles and feet is often an early symptom of venous insufficiency, a condition in which blood inadequately moves up the veins from the legs and feet up to the heart.
    5. Infection: Swelling in the feet and ankles can be a sign of infection. People with diabetic neuropathy or other nerve problems of the feet are at greater risk for foot infections.
    6. Blood clot: Blood clots that form in the veins of the legs can stop the return flow of blood from the legs back up to the heart and cause swelling in the ankles and feet. If you notice discolouration of the leg accompanied by severe pain, see a doctor immediately.
    7. Heart, liver, or kidney disease: Sometimes swelling can indicate a problem such as heart, liver, or kidney disease. Ankles that swell in the evening could be a sign of retaining salt and water because of right-sided heart failure. If your swelling is accompanied by other symptoms, including fatigue, loss of appetite, and weight gain, see your doctor right away.
    What to do to reduce the swelling from a foot or ankle:
    1. If injured ankle, rest to avoid walking on the injured ankle or foot
    2. Use ice packs on swollen foot’s ankle
    3. Wrap the foot or ankle with a compression bandage
    4. Elevate the foot on a stool or pillow
    5. If you have diabetes, inspect feet daily for blisters and sores
    6. Nerve damage can blunt the pain sensation and foot problems can progress quickly
    7. If deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is suspected, doctors may begin treatment with blood thinners
    8. If swelling and pain is severe or doesn’t improve with home treatment, see your doctor
    Disclaimer: Tips and suggestions mentioned in the article are for general information purpose only and should not be construed as professional medical advice. Always consult your doctor or a dietician before starting any fitness programme or making any changes to your diet.


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