7 Reasons For Swollen Feet

Since your feet bear all your weight and it’s tough to pump liquid uphill, feet swell. A good rest and decent shoes should set them right. Sometimes being trapped in a position where you can’t move (think airplane seat) will cause your feet to swell.

If your feet swell unexpectedly or stay swollen even if they are elevated above your heart, you may want to see a doctor. If the swelling works its way up your legs, you definitely should see a doctor. If you are pregnant, check out number one.

If you have a fever and swollen feet, check out four and five. The cause can be dangerous!

Pregnancy Complications

This one won’t directly affect everyone, but it might be a friend or coworker who you help. Your feet will swell a bit during pregnancy. Your heart and kidneys are working extra hard to eliminate both your waste and your fetus’ waste. The extra weight doesn’t help either.

However, if you (or a pregnant friend) suddenly have swollen feet or they are excessively swollen, it may be a sign of preeclampsia. This warrants a call to your doctor because the condition can be very dangerous!

Foot Injury

You might notice twisting your ankle or stubbing a toe! Swelling is a sign that you’ve overstretched some of the ligaments or caused some soft tissue injury. Treat it with RICE – rest, ice, compression, elevation. Put an ice bag on it, add a bandage, and elevate it to near your heart level. Check your toes occasionally for pinkness. White or tingly toes indicate your wrap is too tight, so loosen it.

If the pain continues or worsens, talk to a doctor.


Lymphedema is fluid (edema) collecting in the lymphatic tissue. Lymph contains white blood cells and waste materials. Lymph nodes filter out the waste. If the nodes get blocked by excess waste or damage, the lymph builds up. It can cause deformity and may become infected. Check out elephantiasis for a look at what severe lymphedema can do.

In the US, lymphedema is most commonly seen in people who have had radiation therapy or lymph node removal. See a doctor if you have had either condition and are swelling.

Venous Insufficiency

Venous insufficiency is a condition where the valves on the veins that carry the blood back to your heart are damaged. The blood leaks back toward your feet. Since this can be the sign of a blood clot in one of your deep veins, it can be a very serious condition. It can also be caused by lack of exercise, sitting or standing for a long time.

Symptoms include swelling or heaviness in the lower leg, pain, itchiness, varicose veins or leather-like skin.


Several types of infections cause swollen feet, including infections resulting from venous insufficiency. If you have diabetes, you may also have diabetic neuropathy. This nerve damage in your feet can mask pain perception. Blister, sores, and cuts may not be noticeable until they are badly infected. Diabetic ulcers don’t heal very well.

Occasionally, athlete’s foot (or cuts) lead to cellulitis, a potentially dangerous skin infection. Look for a painful, warm, sometimes glossy rash and have it checked out if you have a rash and fever.

Blood Clots

Blood clots can cause venous insufficiency. Whether in deep veins or in surface arteries or veins, blood clots are dangerous. You will generally have one side swelling with pain, warmth, and a reddish color. Blood clots can break loose and eventually lodge in the brain, lungs or heart. These are potentially fatal.

If you have a swollen foot and sudden shortness of breath or chest pressure or stroke symptoms, contact a doctor immediately or call 911.

Heart, Liver or Kidney Disease

Heart, liver or kidney disease can all cause swollen feet. Heart disease often involves retaining water and salt. Kidneys are responsible for removing fluid so retaining fluid can be a sign of damaged kidneys. Liver disease includes inadequate albumin production. Albumin keeps blood from leaking out of blood vessels.

In all these cases, retained water will go settle at the lowest point (generally your feet) and cause swelling. Other symptoms may include fatigue, weight gain and loss of appetite.


Swollen feet can mean that you’ve been standing or sitting still too long. Any swelling should go down as you move around. Sprains, strains and breaks can cause swelling as well, usually after trauma.

If swelling doesn’t go down with movement, involves an infection, is one-sided, or you have signs of a stroke or heart attack, contact a doctor (911 if you have stroke/heart attack symptoms!). Suddenly swollen feet during pregnancy should be immediately reported to your OB.

Swollen feet are probably not dangerous, but you never know, and a quick call can set your fears at ease.