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Foot Swelling: What Does it Mean?

Do you experience frequent swelling in the feet and ankles? Usually, this isn’t a cause for after walking, running, or standing for a long time, but if they stay swollen even during periods of inactivity, there might be a cause for concern.

Foot or Ankle Injuries

The most common reason for swelling in the feet and ankle are injuries such as a sprain, fracture, or break. These are usually very obvious when you have an injury because of the pain accompanied by the swelling. To reduce the swelling, you’ll want to elevate the injury, avoid walking and standing for long periods of time, and frequently ice the area. If the swelling and pain don’t get any better, you should see your doctor.


Lymphedema is the buildup of lymph, a fluid your body makes, happens when lymph vessels or nodes that the fluid travels through are missing, damaged, or removed. There are two kinds of lymphedema, primary and secondary. Primary is extremely rare and caused at birth, while secondary happens when a blockage or another problem changes the flow of lymph fluid through your body's network of lymph vessels and nodes. If you have undergone treatment for cancer and experience swelling, contact your doctor right away.

Health Conditions

There are a variety of health conditions that can lead to swelling in the feet and ankles. For starters, you could potentially have an infection that is causing the swelling. People with diabetic neuropathy or other nerve problems of the feet are at greater risk for foot infections. If you have diabetes, you should be regularly checking your feet for blisters and sores.

Another cause for swelling could be blood clots. These blood clots form in the veins of the legs can stop the return flow of blood from the legs back up to the heart and cause swelling in the ankles and feet. They can either be superficial, meaning they are just beneath the skin, or deeper in the body on major veins. If you have swelling in one leg, along with pain, low-grade fever, and possibly a change in color of the affected leg, contact your doctor immediately.

Heart, liver, and kidney disease can be another reason that you may experience swollen ankles and feet. Swelling can often be an indicator that something in the body is not functioning properly. Ankles that swell in the evening could be a sign of retaining salt and water because of right-sided heart failure. Kidney disease can also cause these symptoms.

When to Call a Doctor

If you are experiencing swelling accompanied by pain or discoloration, contact your doctor immediately. Swelling is normal after standing, walking, or other physical activities for long periods of time, but should slowly go back to normal. If you are concerned that something is wrong, your best bet is to contact your doctor.

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