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What are the Most Common Causes of Swollen Feet and Legs?

By Erin J. Hill
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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The most cause of swollen feet and legs is caused by increased fluid buildup when one sits or stands for long periods of time without switching positions. Serious health conditions can also cause swelling, such as deep vein thrombosis, lymphedema, cellulitis, and heart failure. Eating foods that are high in sodium and not drinking enough water can also lead to swelling and bloating all over the body.

Sitting at a desk while working all day or standing in one spot without moving are both common causes of swollen feet and legs. This can usually be easily remedied by moving around during the day and getting adequate exercise. Drinking plenty of water and staying away from foods that can cause bloat, such as excess salt, may also help reduce swelling.

Being overweight or pregnant can also cause swelling in the feet and legs. In pregnancy, this is partially due to the extra blood flow in the body. The extra weight around the middle in both instances can also hinder the drainage of fluids from the body and lead to swelling. Treatment for this are generally the same as for swelling being caused by lack of movement. Losing weight may also help.

Sometimes a serious health condition will be to blame for swollen feet and legs. Cellulitis is a condition caused by a skin infection which can cause swelling. Additional symptoms are usually also present and can include redness, pain, soreness, fever, and warmth in the affected area. Treatment generally involves antibiotics.

Congestive heart failure can also cause swollen feet and legs, as well as swelling in the abdomen. It can be caused by too many fluids being retained in the body and the chest. As the heart pumps blood less efficiently, even more fluids are retained and the condition worsens. Medication and sometimes surgery is often necessary.

Varicose veins and deep vein thrombosis are both conditions which can lead to swelling in the legs and feet. Varicose veins are generally swollen and filled with blood while deep vein thrombosis refers to a blood clot in the veins. These conditions are related because varicose veins are more susceptible to clotting than normal.

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Discussion Comments
By anon1005502 — On Sep 11, 2021

Only my left foot and ankle swell.

By Mor — On Nov 29, 2014

@irontoenail - If you've noticed some ankle and foot swelling and it's not too drastic, I would just try laying off the salt and drinking a bunch of water for a few days and see if that helps. If there are other symptoms, of course you shouldn't ignore it, but sometimes it really is just a case of dehydration and not moving around enough to get the blood flowing well.

By irontoenail — On Nov 29, 2014

@MrsPramm - I quite like it now that you can book your ticket online and try to choose your seat so that you have a row to yourself. If that's the case I never have any problems because I can lie down whenever I want. I'm also pretty sure this is just a problem for the people in economy rather than the ones in higher classes where they have those tip-down seats.

I will say though that if you're getting swollen feet quite suddenly in your everyday life and there doesn't seem to be a good reason, you should take it to a doctor. My mother ended up with this happening and it turned out to be a heart condition.

I think it's the kind of thing that often gets blamed on lack of exercise or bad diet or whatever, but that's not necessarily the case.

By MrsPramm — On Nov 28, 2014

My feet will swell up in a really bad way if I fly for too long. I've taken some really long flights and unless there is a stopover where you can lie down properly for a few hours, fluid just ends up collecting in your legs and feet.

I will try to make it better by walking around as much as possible during the flight and by wearing special stockings to compress my legs, but it only helps a little bit if the flight is over 30 hours. It also seems to take forever for my swollen feet and ankles to go down to normal again.

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