A whopping 20% of older Americans experience swelling in the feet. Swelling on the top of the foot, otherwise known as peripheral edema, can cause uncomfortable symptoms such as weakness, pain, and limited range of motion.
Most of the time, swelling in the ankles or on top of the feet is not a major cause for concern. However, that doesn’t mean that this form of swelling can’t lead to major discomfort or affect your activities of daily living.
If you experience this form of peripheral edema for long periods of time, there could be an underlying condition. In this article, we are going to explore what causes this type of swelling on top of the feet and ankles, prevention, possible solutions, and much more.
Peripheral edema is a condition of fluid build-up in the lower extremities of the body, such as the feet and legs. There are various reasons why this type of swelling may occur. This may be caused by serious conditions, such as circulatory problems, or just a side-effect of something as minor as sitting for too long. Let’s explore the different possible causes.
As kidney disease progresses, the kidneys are not able to flush out toxins and excess fluid as well. This can lead to a build-up of fluid in the body and result in peripheral edema.
Venous insuffiiciency occurs when a person’s blood is unable to flow properly around the body. When the venous walls and valves are not working correctly, it is difficult for blood to return to the heart from the legs. This causes blood to collect in the veins of the lower body and results in an excess build-up of fluid. This is commonly seen in those with varicose veins and cardiovascular disease.
Some mediations may cause swelling on the top of the foot. There are numerous medications that have an increased risk of leading to water retention. Some of the most common medications include hormonal drugs, blood pressure medications, steroids, antidepressants, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and some diabetes medications.
When natural hormone levels fluctuate, such as with estrogen and progesterone, it can cause fluid retention due to decreased circulation in the legs. These hormonal shifts occur during pregnancy and a women’s menstrual cycle.
A normal response to injuries, such as a broken ankle or severe burns, results in a cascade of inflammatory reactions. This trauma and inflammation can cause swelling in the affected area.
Inflammatory diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis are known to result in the buildup of fluid in the body and result in uncomfortable swelling on top of the feet and ankles.
Cirrhosis is a form of liver disease. It results in severe scarring of the liver, due to alcohol abuse or infection. Cirrhosis is associated with high blood pressure, which is a major cause of poor circulation in the lower extremities.
Being overweight puts you at risk of developing uncomfortable swelling and fluid retention in the lower body. The excess body mass makes it difficult for blood to circulate throughout the body as efficiently, causing fluid to build up in the ankles, feet, and legs.
For individuals who might be bed-ridden, have desk jobs, or traveling, it is always recommended to try and get up at least once an hour to allow blood flow to circulate properly. When the muscles in the legs are not in use, it is difficult for body fluids to be pumped back up to the heart.
This causes retention of fluid in the legs and swelling on top of the feet. This is why you may have seen people on airplanes wearing compression socks. These types of socks are used to help maintain blood flow and reduce swelling and discomfort.
If swelling on the top of the foot, leg, or ankle is caused by lifestyle factors, there are actions that can be taken to help prevent this uncomfortable condition.
Incorporating regular exercise is an important factor in maintaining proper circulation in the body. According to The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, engaging in a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity per week greatly reduces the risk of developing cardiovascular-related diseases.
The American Heart Association recommends an intake of no more than 2,300 milligrams a day of sodium. But, unfortunately, the CDC reports that 90% of Americans consume way more than this threshold. The reduction of salt intake in the diet will lessen your risk of developing complications leading to fluid retention.
Consuming a diet that consists of anti-inflammatory foods may help minimize swelling and aid the body in reducing inflammation. Some examples of anti-inflammatory foods include nuts and seeds, dark leafy greens, fruit, lean protein, fatty fish, and olive oil.
If you find yourself in a situation where you are sitting for over an hour at a time, make sure to periodically stand up, stretch, and walk around. This will help reduce the risk of developing fluid build-up in the feet. If you are someone who is at increased risk of developing edema, such as those who have kidney disease or diabetes, you may want to speak with your practitioner about the use of compression socks when traveling.
For those who may already be struggling with chronic or frequent edema and swelling on top of the foot, there are remedies available. There are a few treatments you can try at home, as well as natural supplements that can aid in the reduction of fluid buildup.
Sometimes, fluid retention and swelling on top of the foot cause so much discomfort that regular activities of daily living may be interrupted. Fortunately, there are some herbs and minerals that are helpful in excreting excess water from the body. Some of these natural substances include green tea leaf, bromelain, hydrangea root, parsley, juniper berry, and ginger, just to name a few.
Natural diuretics may help to relieve fluid retention and provide relief to those who struggle with edema. One of the most powerful and scientifically-backed natural supplements, Swell No More, is the perfect example of a natural diuretic supplement that contains an optimal blend of anti-inflammatory and diuretic ingredients. Swell No More is a safe and effective product that has been trusted by doctors since 2011.
The addition of a natural diuretic may be the answer for those who constantly struggle with stubborn swelling of the feet and legs. Always make sure to consult with your practitioner before starting any new supplement, especially those who are pregnant, nursing, or taking blood pressure medications.
Written by: Jordana Tobelem RD, LDN
American Heart Association. “How Much Sodium Should I Eat per Day?” Www.heart.org, https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/sodium/how-much-sodium-should-i-eat-per-day.
“Edema: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment.” Cleveland Clinic, https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/12564-edema.
Raymond, Janice L., et al. Krause and Mahan's Food & the Nutrition Care Process. Elsevier, 2021.