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Why Do Feet & Ankles Swell?

By Michaele Curtis ; Updated July 27, 2017

If you experience swollen feet and ankles, you are among the many people who suffer from this common ailment. Even if your feet and ankles just swell during the workday, swollen feet can be uncomfortable and even painful. There are so many reasons your feet and ankles swell, but there are some more common reasons, such as too much sodium or kidney troubles.

Swollen Feet and Ankles

Your feet and ankles are in prime position to experience all sorts of injuries and conditions, including swelling. You can tell that they are swollen if you notice fluid retention in your feet and ankle tissue. If you press down on the tissue with your fingers, you will leave an impression as the fluid temporary displaces. Swollen feet and ankles can be a symptom of an underlying condition, such as kidney disease, diabetes or infection.

Sodium Retention

Diet is a major factor in your health. If you consume too much sodium, it can show up in your feet and ankles as swelling. Your body uses electrolytes like sodium to convey electrical impulse through your body. It needs the correct balance of electrolytes to do this. When there is too much sodium in your body, you become thirsty so that you will increase your water intake to balance it all out. The water enters your bloodstream, and through the process of osmosis, works its way to the areas of your body where there is more sodium. This is often your face and extremities. As the water rushes to these areas, you will experience swelling in your face and hands as well as your feet and ankles.


Another factor that can make your feet and ankles swell is diabetes. Your pancreas secretes a hormone called insulin, and every cell in your body uses that insulin to absorb glucose for energy. If you have diabetes, this means that your body either does not make enough insulin or does not respond to the insulin it does make. One of the many complications associated with diabetes is arterial damage. Damaged arteries do not circulate blood efficiently, leading to swollen feet, ankles and other extremities.

Kidney Damage

Kidney damage, a serious condition wherein your kidneys lose functioning abilities, is another reason your feet may swell. Your kidneys’ main function is to remove waste, excess water and other impurities from you blood’s circulation. Damaged kidneys either do not work at all or do not work very well. Excess water can build up in your blood and, again through the process of osmosis, begin to travel to other areas of your body. It often ends up in your hands and face, as well as your feet and ankles.


Cellulitis is the bacterial infection of skin and other tissues beneath the skin by staphylococcus bacteria. It is more serious than other types of skin infections because it affects the deeper layers of skin tissues. Although cellulitis can occur in just about any area of the body, it most often shows up in the legs. It usually starts as a red, inflamed area and is characterized by swelling and fever. Many times, your feet and ankles are also affected by cellulitis infection and experience heavy swelling. If you have swollen feet and ankles as well as fever and warmth at the area, you may in fact have cellulitis.

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