Swollen feet is a condition experienced by adults of all ages. The lower body is most influenced by swelling due to the gravity effect, and swelling is typically in the ankles and legs. Painless swelling is a common condition, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), but medical treatment should be sought for painful or long term swelling.
The NIH reports that most lower body swelling is the result of weight, restrictive clothing, aging or poor circulation. Standing in place for long periods of time or sitting in a car or airplane without exercise may also create swollen feet. Tight pants also inhibit blood circulation. These conditions are frequently treated with home remedies such as elevating or stretching the legs and feet. Diuretics reduce the fluid in the system and reduce the swelling, but the over-the-counter medication will not eliminate the cause of the swelling.
Medical Diagnostic Testing
The Mayo Clinic offers an online "Symptom Checker" that may be used to provide reading materials related to swollen feet. Professional medical treatment will include blood and urine testing to determine the cause of the swelling. As a precaution, especially when the swelling is associated with breathing problems, the doctor will order an ECG or chest x-ray, according to the NIH. The doctor may prescribe the home remedies listed but, in other cases, there may be more significant problems associated with the swelling.
Swelling in the feet may be caused by serious medical conditions including lymphatic obstructions (lymph node blockage) or a blood clot. These conditions may be treated with prescription drugs or may also require surgery. Blood pressure medications, including diltiazem, nifedipine, verapamil, felodipine, and amlodipine, list swelling of the feet as a side effect of the drug. Antidepressant prescription drugs may also create fluid that causes the feet to swell. Consult your doctor about substituting medications, but call the doctor's office immediately to report these side effects.
Ingesting large amounts of salt (or eating food with high sodium content) and lack of exercise are key factors in creating conditions that allow the feet to swell. Low-sodium diets, such as the Heart Healthy Diet, provides parameters to meet daily salt needs while reducing the risk of fluid retention (the medical term for this condition is peripheral edema). Daily stretching and walking for a minimum of 20-minutes also reduces the risk of swelling, according to the NIH.
Swollen feet should be examined by a medical professional in a timely manner if the swollen area is a reddish color or if the area is warm when touched, according to the NIH. Individuals with a fever or experiencing a decrease in urine production should also seek medical help. Pregnant women with extreme swelling should consult a gynecologist obstetrician. Chest pain and breathing problems, combined with foot swelling, require immediate medical treatment. The NIH recommends calling 911 for emergency transportation to a hospital emergency room or an emergency medical clinic if these symptoms are present when the feet become swollen.