Excess swelling of the feet and ankles caused by the accumulation of fluid in the tissues is called edema. It can be localized to any part of your body or generalized.
Swelling is common after eating salty foods and sitting in one position for too long. Some people may also experience swelling due to hormonal changes. However, these aren’t the only causes of swelling.
medication side effects
In rare cases, edema may be due to an increased tendency to have leaky capillaries or sometimes from taking large amounts of insulin.
Diabetes and swelling
Diabetes is a condition where the body doesn’t produce any or enough insulin. Insulin is a hormone secreted by the pancreas. It helps your cells absorb sugar.
If your body doesn’t use insulin properly, high levels of glucose (sugar) can accumulate in your blood. If left untreated, high glucose levels can damage the lining of smaller blood vessels. This damage can result in poor blood circulation.
When your blood doesn’t circulate properly, fluid gets trapped in certain parts of your body, such as the legs, ankles, and feet.
If you have diabetes, due to the tendency to slow healing, swelling can also occur after a foot or ankle injury.
Over time, high blood sugar can damage the nerves in your lower extremities and other parts of your body. This can lead to numbness, which makes it difficult to detect injuries like sprains, fractures, and cuts.
Untreated sprains and fractures can trigger swelling. Additionally, an untreated cut can become infected and swell.
Speak to your doctor first about any swelling you’re experiencing, as sometimes edema can be a clue to the presence of an underlying problem like heart, kidney, or liver disease.
If you have diabetes, it’s important to check your feet on a regular basis for cuts, bruises, and other injuries. See a foot specialist periodically to check for circulation problems or nerve damage in your lower extremities.
If you experience swelling from diabetes, here are 10 tips to help manage fluid in your feet.
1. Use compression socks
Compression socks help maintain the right amount of pressure in your feet and legs. This can improve blood circulation in your feet and reduce swelling.
You can purchase compression socks from a grocery store, pharmacy, or medical supply store. These socks are available in different levels, including light, medium, and heavy. Speak to your doctor if you don’t know which level to purchase.
It’s important that compression socks aren’t too tight, so start with light compression and increase the compression if necessary. A compression sock that’s too tight can actually impede circulation. It’s also important that socks aren’t placed over open wounds or sores.
Compression socks cover your calf up to the knee. Wear them like regular socks during the day, and remove them before bed. Talk to your doctor to see if you need to wear them on one leg or both.
You can also wear compression socks while flying if you’re prone to swelling. To check if this is right for you, speak to your doctor.
2. Exercise regularly
Being inactive can increase swelling in your feet. Make a concerted effort to move around as much as possible throughout the day. Exercise isn’t only helpful for weight management and improving blood sugar, it can also promote blood circulation and reduce swelling.
Choose non-weight-bearing exercises like swimming, cycling, and walking. Aim for 30 minutes of exercise on most days of the week.
3. Lose weight
Losing weight also helps to reduce swelling in your lower extremities. The benefits of maintaining a healthy weight include less joint pain, lower risk for cardiovascular disease, and it’ll be easier to maintain a normal blood sugar level.
When your blood sugar is in the target range, you’re less likely to have damage to your blood vessels, which can lead to poor circulation and swelling.
4. Stay hydrated
If your body retains fluid, drinking more water may seem counterproductive. But the more fluid you take in, the more fluid you’ll expel through urination.
Plus, the body holds onto extra water when you’re dehydrated. Aim to drink 8 to 10 glasses of water a day to improve swelling.
Before increasing your fluid intake, check with your doctor first to determine if this is right for you. Sometimes, if edema is due to heart problems or liver problems, your doctor may advise you to restrict your fluid intake.
5. Limit salt
Eating too many salty foods can also make swelling worse. Instead of salt, cook with herbs such as:
According to the Mayo Clinic, the average American consumes about 3,400 milligrams (mg) of sodium per day, yet guidelines recommend an intake of no more than 2,300 mg per day.
If you have diabetes, you may need to consume less salt. Speak with your doctor to see how much salt you can safely eat per day. To cut back, eat more fresh fruits and vegetables, don’t purchase processed foods, and look for low-sodium canned goods.
6. Get up and move every hour
Sitting for long periods can also increase swelling. Make a point to get up at least once every hour and take a short three- to five-minute walk to promote blood circulation. It might be helpful to wear an activity monitor that reminds you to move every hour.
7. Soak your feet in Epsom salt
Epsom salt is a magnesium sulphate compound that helps relieve pain and reduce swelling. Fill a footbath or tub with water and pour a little Epsom salt into the water. Soak your feet for about 15 to 20 minutes.
If you have diabetic neuropathy, make sure you test the water temperature with your hands first to avoid injury to your foot.
8. Elevate your feet
Elevation helps the lymphatic system drain the swollen limbs by using gravity to help ‘drain’ fluids. However, you cannot just elevate your leg on any given surface. There is a specific ergonomic angle you need to put your leg on. When laying flat, aim to have your leg elevated above your heart. Don’t sit with your leg in this position at all times, rotate between a lower and higher elevation. Make sure you are not using regularly stacked pillows. Invest in a proper leg elevation devices for your injury. Make sure you are achieving a 60-70 degree of elevation. As well as ensure that your knee is supported and not hyper flexed in a straight line with proper ankle support.
When to see a doctor?
If your swelling is new, worsening, or generalized, see your doctor. They can diagnose your condition and determine which home remedies may be right for you.
Swelling in a person with diabetes may be caused by a condition associated with diabetes, such as:
See your doctor for foot, leg, or ankle swelling that doesn’t improve with home remedies.
You should also see a doctor for swelling that only occurs on one side of your body. This could be a sign of deep vein thrombosis, which is a blood clot that develops in one or more of the deep veins in your leg. This condition can cause pain, swelling, or have no symptoms at all.
Also, make a point to check your feet regularly for wounds to avoid infections. If you have any sores, ulcers, or blisters that don’t heal, see a doctor.
The bottom line
Swelling in the feet can occur with or without diabetes, although having diabetes is frequently associated with leg swelling due to multiple causes.
Home remedies such as elevating your feet, exercising, and staying hydrated can sometimes combat swelling. However, it’s important to talk to your doctor about any new or persistent swelling.