Swollen feet is a general term used to describe an increase in fluid in a localized area. Swelling is also called edema. There are many causes for edema, and edema can range from mild to severe and life-threathening.
Mild forms of swelling happens to all of us at one point or another in our lives. If we find ourselves walking in the mall all day long, or if we have to stand up at work for most of the day, we may notice that at the end of the day, our feet and our ankles are swollen or edematous. Our feet become more swollen than any other area of the body, mainly because of gravity. Mild swelling can be easily controlled and treated with some home remedies, mainly elevation of the swollen extremity above the level of the heart. This allows gravity to take the fluids back to the heart. Another treatment is more preventative. It involves wearing compression stockings during the day which aids in getting the fluid back to heart, instead of it pooling in the feet and ankles. Also, it helps to move around a bit when you have to be on your feet. Every two hours, you should stretch and allow the muscles of your body to flex and extend. Light exercise or movement of the muscles will also help to get the blood in your extremities moving.
However, swelling in the feet can also be very severe, often leading to more severe treatment measures, including surgery and/or hospitalilzation.
Some systemic causes of swelling include heart, liver or kidney disease, in which case, swelling in the feet may be one of the first signs of one such systemic disorder.
THE PICTURE BELOW IS A PATIENT WITH GOUT. YOU CAN SEE THE INCREASE IN EDEMA AROUND THE BIG TOE JOINT. THIS PATIENT HAS AN ACUTE ONSET OF GOUT. GOUT CAN BE EXCRUCIATINGLY PAINFUL
Another systemic disorder which manifests in the foot as severe swelling and excruciating pain is Gout. Gout is the result of a build up of uric acid crystals in the joint and can be most commonly seen in the big toe or even the ankle joint, just above the foot. Infection can also cause swelling. Again, this is heralded with pain, swelling and redness. Sometimes, an open wound with pus would be significant for an infection in the foot.
THE PICTURE BELOW IS OF A PATIENT WITH VENOUS STASIS. BECAUSE OF THE POOLING OF BLOOD, SIGNIFICANT IN VENOUS STASIS OR VENOUS INSUFFICIENCY, THE BLOOD THAT POOLS IN THE LOWER EXTREMITY STAINS THE SKIN WITH DEPOSITS CALLED HEMOSIDERIN DEPOSITS. HEMOSIDERIN IS ACTUALLY AN IRON MOLECULE WHICH IS FOUND AT THE CENTER OF EVERY RED BLOOD CELL.
Venous stasis or a circulatory disorder, where the veins of the lower extremities are not working properly, allowing blood to pool in the extremities, and causing dark spots to appear on the skin, also known as hemosiderin deposits, may be another systemic cause of leg and or foot swelling.
2-DVT: Severe swelling can also be from a blood clot, also known as a DVT or a deep venous thrombosis. In this case, the extremity becomes red, hot and swollen. If you notice any of these symptoms in a loved one or in yourself, it is a sure sign to go straight to the emergency room. A DVT or a blood clot in the lower extremity could be life threathening.
BELOW IS A PICTURE OF A PATIENT WITH A DVT. AS YOU CAN SEE ONE OF THE LEGS IS AT LEAST TWICE THE SIZE OF THE OTHER LEG. THIS IS TYPICAL OF DVT.
3-Trauma: Any type of trauma to the foot, ranging from mild to severe can cause swelling in the foot, the severity depending on the degree of trauma experienced.
4-Burns, insect bites, and surgery are some external causes of swelling.
5-Some medications, such as anti-depressants, birth control pills, and hormone replacements may cause significant swelling. It is important to go to the doctor who perscribed the medication and to ask her to change the medication if the swelling is starting to become significant.
6-Nutrition: Foods high in sodium or salts will cause an increase in swelling of the lower extremities. The treatment for this would be to increase fluid or water intake.
Some forms of swelling can be easily treated at home. Other forms need to be treated by a medical professional. Any swelling of the foot or ankle, especially with pain and redness should be a priority. These cases need to be seen by a physician as soon as possible, as they may be life threathening. Treatments are available for most forms of swelling in the foot. The systemic causes can be treated by a physician, using medication. Gout can be controlled with medication and with a change in diet. A DVT can be treated with a blood thinner, and the person with a DVT needs to be hospitalized and monitored. However, if not caught in time, a DVT can be dangerous, even deadly.
It is exceedingly important to see your doctor immediately if you notice any swelling that is out of the ordinary. Early treatment is essential for a quick recovery.