Q: What causes feet to swell? – P. H.
A: There are many reasons the feet may swell. It is very important that you figure out the root cause behind your swollen feet. There are some serious health implications as to why the foot may be swollen and these include:
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-side heart failure. Kidney disease can also cause foot and ankle swelling. When kidneys are not functioning properly, fluid can build up in the body. Liver disease can affect the liver’s production of a protein called albumin, which keeps the blood from leaking out of the blood vessels into the surrounding tissues. Inadequate albumin production can lead to fluid leakage. Gravity causes fluid to accumulate more in the feet and ankles, but fluid can also accumulate in the abdomen and chest. If your swelling is accompanied by other symptoms, including fatigue, loss of appetite, and weight gain, see your doctor right away. If you feel short of breath or have chest pain, pressure, or tightness, call 911.
Lymphedema. This is a collection of lymphatic fluid in the tissues that can develop because of the absence of or problems with the lymph vessels or after the removal of lymph nodes. Lymph is a protein-rich fluid that normally travels along an extensive network of vessels and capillaries. It is filtered through the lymph nodes, which trap and destroy unwanted substances, such as bacteria. Untreated, lymph buildup can impair wound healing and lead to infection and deformity. Lymphedema is common following radiation therapy or removal of the lymph nodes in patients with cancer. If you have undergone cancer treatment and experience swelling, see your doctor right away.
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. Normally, the veins keep blood flowing upward with one-way valves. When these valves become damaged or weakened, the blood leaks back down the vessels and fluid is retained in the lower legs, especially the ankles and feet. Chronic venous insufficiency can lead to skin changes, skin ulcers, and infection. If you experience signs of venous insufficiency you should see your doctor.