Swollen Feet: Causes and Treatments

Foot problems are amongst the most common complaints in the world; one in seven people will experience this type of discomfort during their lifetime. There are many common causes of this type of discomforts, such as blisters, corns, and calluses that occur from normal wear and tear, and while they’re not ideal they’re also no cause for concern.

However, there are issues related to foot pain that are cause for concern, and since our feet are so important to our quality of life keeping them healthy is absolutely essential. Because there are so many different reasons why a person could experience swollen feet it’s important to be able to distinguish minor issues from when swollen foot pain is considered serious.

We’re going to examine some of the more serious issues that can cause this type of pain and they are often identifiable because they do not completely respond to at-home treatments such as ice, rest, and painkillers. If you have pain and swelling that lasts longer than three days despite taking the above-mentioned measures, or if you are running a fever or notice any additional, unusual symptoms, then you will need to seek immediate medical attention.

Causes of Foot Swelling

1. Fractures

It’s easy to assume that someone who has fractured a bone would realize it immediately, either through pain or visual clues, but this is simply not always the case. When only a mild crack occurs or an individual has a high tolerance for pain a fracture may not be their primary consideration even if they are aware of having been injured. In most cases, however, the fracture will produce discomfort and prolonged swelling and will require medical attention.

If you participate in repetitive motion sports or activities that have a high impact on your feet, or if you’ve landed badly on your foot or ankle and notice discomfort and swelling it’s best to cease all activity, ice the injured area, elevate the injured area, and seek immediate medical attention.

2. Allergic Reaction to Medication

It will probably surprise most people to know that several types of prescription medications can cause swollen and painful feet. The biggest culprits are medications used to treat high blood pressure as well as antidepressants, steroids, and oral contraceptives with high levels of estrogen.

If you, or someone that you know, has recently started taking one of the above medications—or any other type of medication for that matter—and swollen foot pain occurs it is extremely important to have it immediately checked by a doctor.

3. Varicose Veins

Varicose veins are also called ‘Venous Insufficiency’, which refers to a condition in which one or several of the deeper leg veins have valves that have either deteriorated or are missing altogether. The valves in our veins usually keep our blood flowing back towards the heart but venous insufficiency causes the blood to remain in the veins instead, especially when standing or sitting.

Serious discomfort and foot and leg swellings are typical symptoms and side effects of varicose veins, but because these symptoms can also be caused by a blood clot it is crucial that any pain, numbness, or swelling be examined by a doctor.

4. Cellulitis

Cellulitis is a bacterial infection that affects both surface skin tissues and the deeper layer of the dermis and subcutaneous tissues. The Streptococcus and Staphylococcus (staph) bacteria are the two main culprits that can cause cellulitis although other bacteria may cause this condition as well. Although we come in contact with both bacteria daily, surgical incisions, open wounds, diabetic ulcerations, and extended use of some steroids can render a person vulnerable to cellulitis.

The first signs of cellulitis infection include tenderness of the afflicted area, redness and swelling; all of which spread to the adjacent skin. The next symptom that occurs is the development of a fever, which may be accompanied by chills and swollen glands.

The lower leg area, especially around the shinbone and the foot, is the most common site of infection. Because cellulitis can be quite dangerous if you experience these symptoms it is cause for concern and you should be seen by a qualified professional as soon as possible.

5. Deep Vein Thrombosis

DVT occurs when a blood clot develops in one of the deep veins of the leg, thigh, or pelvis, and it’s one of the most serious reasons that you could be experiencing swollen foot pain. Deep Vein Thrombosis can cause pain, warmth, and swelling in the affected leg and the foot of the affected leg.

If you experience any of these symptoms you must get them checked immediately; if the clot breaks off it can travel to your heart and lung, which are two very serious and sometimes life-threatening complications.

6. Congestive Heart Failure

Most people do not associate pain and swelling in the feet, ankles, and legs with heart failure, but this is exactly what occurs as the heart loses strength and efficiency and causes the body to begin retaining fluids. Congestive heart failure occurs in hearts that are damaged or weak from chronic disease or sudden trauma, such as a heart attack, and as such the heart is no longer strong enough to properly move blood around the body.

The heart muscles may also stiffen up, thus preventing blood from flowing back into its chambers properly. If the symptoms you are experiencing are mild then make an appointment to see your doctor as soon as possible. If they are severe, however, you need to call an ambulance or get to the emergency room immediately.


There are many instances when swollen foot pain is just that; localized pain from swelling that will diminish over a few days with rest and non-invasive care.

Unfortunately, there are also more serious medical conditions that can cause the same symptoms to appear and if you find the pain is sudden, severe, does not diminish with minimal care, or is accompanied by more worrisome symptoms then you need to seek medical immediate medical attention.

If you suffer from foot pain it’s important to be able to distinguish when your discomfort has a minor cause and when swollen foot pain is considered serious or potentially life-threatening.

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