What Causes Swelling of the Feet?

Reviewed on 9/7/2022

What Are Swollen Feet?

Swollen ankles of an elderly woman
Swollen feet can be caused by many conditions, including injury, infection, blood clots, heart disease, and others.

Swelling of the feet is a symptom of many different conditions, ranging from injury and infection to blood clots and heart disease

13 Causes of Swelling of the Feet

Causes of swollen feet include: 

How to Get Rid of Swollen Feet

It is important to see a doctor to determine the cause of and treatment for swelling of the feet. Treatment to get rid of swollen feet varies depending on the cause. 

For many causes of swollen feet, the RICE method can be helpful: 

  • Rest 
  • Ice 
  • Compression wrap the 
  • Elevate the foot 

Over-the-counter (OTC) nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve) may be taken for pain.

Other treatments to get rid of swollen ankles include:

  • Swollen feet due to standing or sitting in the same position for a long time will generally go away when you start moving again. 
  • Treatment for swollen feet due to eating excess salt in the diet will go away on its own. Limiting or avoiding salty foods can help prevent swelling. 
  • Treatment for swollen feet due to being overweight involves diet and exercise to for weight loss.
  • Swollen feet due to insect bites or stings can be relieved with ice or a cold compress applied to the area and raising the feet. 

Treatment for swollen feet due to injury includes:

  • RICE method
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for pain
  • Splints and braces
  • Range of motion exercises (depending on the type of injury)
  • Surgery

Treatment for swollen feet due to arthritis and other autoimmune conditions depends on the specific condition and may include:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs)
  • Steroids

Treatment for swollen feet due to infection depends on the type of infection and may include:

  • Sores due to diabetic neuropathy and other nerve problems 
  • Ingrown toenail
    • Lifting the nail 
    • Partially removing the nail or removing the nail and tissue in more severe cases
  • Athlete’s foot
    • Antifungal cream/lotion/gel

Treatment for swollen feet due to venous insufficiency includes:

  • Elevating the legs above heart level for 30 minutes three or four times per day 
  • Compression therapy (i.e., compression bandaging, compression garments)
  • Foot and ankle exercises 
  • Medications 
    • Aspirin
    • Antibiotics for infected sores

Treatment for swollen feet due to deep vein thrombosis (DVT) includes:

  • Anticoagulants
  • Thrombolytic therapy, in severe cases
  • Inferior vena cava (IVC) filter 

Treatment for swollen feet due to lymphedema includes:

  • Skin care
  • Weight management
  • Compression therapy (i.e., compression bandaging, compression garments)
  • Physiotherapy
  • Surgery in severe cases

Treatment for swollen feet due to heart, liver, or kidney disease includes:

  • Treating the underlying condition
  • Diuretics to eliminate excess fluid
  • Compression therapy (i.e., compression bandaging, compression garments)
  • Reducing the amount of salt (sodium) in the diet

Treatment for swollen feet due to pregnancy complications such as preeclampsia includes:

  • The only treatment is delivery
  • If preeclampsia occurs before term, there is an attempt to delay delivery to 37 weeks 

Treatment for swollen feet due to medication side effects includes:

  • Stopping or switching medications
  • Changing the dosage
    • Never stop taking a prescribed medication without first talking to your doctor
Reviewed on 9/7/2022

Image source: iStock Images