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Common Foot Problems FOOT HEALTH

Can Dehydration Cause Your Feet to Swell: Explore the Connection

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Dehydration can cause your feet to swell. When you are dehydrated, the body holds onto water. This causes swelling in the feet. Nearly 75% of the population is chronically dehydrated (1)

The human body is predominantly made up of water. Water accounts for 50-80% of body weight (2)

Whether you are dehydrated from not drinking enough water every day, or dehydrated due to certain medical conditions, it can directly impact your feet.

In this article, we will discuss the causes of dehydration, the symptoms, and tips to treat it.

What Is Edema and What Causes It in the Feet?

Foot edema (also known as peripheral edema) is a medical condition where there is excess fluid in the tissues of the feet. This can lead to swelling and puffiness in the feet. 

Foot Edema Can Be Caused by the Following Conditions:

Prolonged Standing or Sitting

If you sit or stand all day, you may notice more swelling in your feet than someone who walks around all day.

This is because when you are walking, the calf muscles are pumping the veins in your legs to push blood back to the heart. 

When you are sedentary, this mechanical pumping action in the blood vessels is not effective. Thus, swelling in your ankles and feet increases. 

Pregnancy

Hormonal changes during pregnancy can cause fluid retention, leading to swelling in the feet and ankles.

Certain Medications

Certain diabetic medications (Pioglitazone and Rosiglitazone) can cause fluid buildup in the body, leading to swollen legs and feet. 

Other medications that can cause swelling include calcium channel blockers, steroids, and NSAIDs.

Heart or Kidney Disease

Heart and kidney disease can cause fluid to accumulate in the body, leading to swelling.

When the heart is not functioning properly, like in the case of heart failure, blood will pool in the veins, leading to fluid buildup in the feet. 

The kidneys filter waste products and excess fluids from the blood. When they are not working efficiently, excess fluid can accumulate in the body, leading to swelling. 

Injury or Trauma

Injuries or trauma to the feet can cause swelling as a result of inflammation and fluid buildup.

Salty Foods

Foods that contain a high amount of salt can cause fluid retention in the feet. This is because the human body holds onto more water to balance out the increased sodium levels. This in turn causes swelling. 

Increased salt intake can also increase your risk for high blood pressure, kidney disease, and heart disease. All of these conditions will also increase foot swelling. 

Environmental Factors

Dehydration and foot swelling can also be caused by environmental factors such as hot weather or high altitudes. When exposed to these conditions, the body loses water through sweat and respiration, leading to dehydration and foot swelling.  

walking

Tips to Reduce Pain From Swelling in the Feet

Wear Compression Stockings

If you have swollen ankles and feet, compression stockings can help. Compression stockings work at the ankle to help relieve swelling. 

Compression garments can be made of many different materials (i.e. nylon, cotton) and come in different strengths. 

You can start by trying compression strength of 15-20mmHg. This is considered a low-grade compression strength. 

Imagine squeezing a blood pressure cuff to 20mmHg at your ankle…that’s how much compression you should feel in your legs when you are wearing the socks. 

You should measure your calves and ankles to determine what size to buy (S, M, L). 

Compression stockings can be worn during the day and should be removed at night when your legs are up. 

Copper compression stockings from Amazon are strong and effective. 

Increase Your Activity

The American Heart Association recommends that you do 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise per week. 

In addition to this, you should incorporate 2 days of strength training. By increasing your activities, you can help reduce swelling in your ankle and feet. 

Limit Salt Intake and Modify Your Diet

Limit sodium intake. A high sodium diet can result in retaining more water. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that Americans should consume less than 2300mg of sodium per day. That is about 1 teaspoon of salt. 

Make sure you are eating a diet that contains foods with high water content. The additional water content in some foods can help flush out excess water that is present in your body.

Such foods include watermelons, celery, salads, lemon, cucumber, and asparagus. 

Eating healthy foods is only part of the solution. Make sure to avoid highly processed foods and alcohol. These foods and beverages increase inflammation and water retention in the legs and feet. 

Perform Massages on Your Feet

Therapeutic massages can be very beneficial for swollen feet and legs. If you are massaging your own feet and legs, make sure to massage in the direction of your heart to help improve swelling. 

You can also purchase a Lymphedema pump on Amazon that can help pump fluids back to the heart. 

You will have to use the pump daily for at least 1 hour to see the most benefit. It is convenient and effective. You can use the pump while you are at home, and use compression stockings the rest of the time. 

Drink More Water

Drinking fluids is essential to alleviate the swelling. 

Adults who perform mild to moderate activities should aim to drink 2.5L-3.5L of water a day (3).

Even mild dehydration of 1 or 2% of body water can impair cognitive functions, alertness, and capacity for exercise (4).

If you have certain medical conditions such as congestive heart failure or kidney disease, speak to your doctor about recommended water intake. In these cases, water intake requirements will vary.  

dry lips

Symptoms of Dehydration 

Many symptoms indicate that an individual may be dehydrated. These symptoms will vary depending on the extent of dehydration and the person’s overall health. 

Some of the Common Symptoms of Dehydration Include:

  • Impaired cognitive function
  • Fatigue
  • Dry lips
  • Mental confusion
  • Tachycardia
  • Hypotension
  • Dizziness
  • Fever
  • Sunken Eyes
  • Coma
  • Death
blood clot

When Should You Be Concerned About Swollen Feet?

If you notice redness, swelling, and calf pain in your leg, make sure you go to the Emergency Room. You may have a Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)

A DVT is a blood clot that can form in the leg from prolonged swelling and inactivity. It is an emergency and needs to be treated with blood thinners. 

If left untreated, the blood clot can dislodge and travel to the lung, causing a pulmonary embolism (PE). This is a life-threatening emergency. 

Other medical issues, such as gout, can occur as a secondary result of chronic dehydration.

If you experience foot pain or ankle pain as a result of dehydration, it’s important to seek care from your Podiatrist or Orthopedic surgeon.

They will perform a physical exam and provide treatment recommendations to help alleviate painful symptoms. 

Conclusion

In conclusion, dehydration can definitely cause your feet to swell. It’s important to stay well hydrated and manage your diet and activities so that the edema in the foot doesn’t worsen. By addressing the swelling in your feet early on, you can minimize the discomfort you feel in the legs and feet. 

References

  1. Taylor K, Jones EB. Adult Dehydration. 2022 May 15. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan–. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32310416/
  2. Kavouras SA, Anastasiou CA. Water physiology: essentiality, metabolism, and health implications. Nutr Today. 2010;45(6S): S27–32.https://asu.pure.elsevier.com/en/publications/water-physiology-essentiality-metabolism-and-health-implications
  3. Perrier, E.T., Armstrong, L.E., Bottin, J.H., et al. Hydration for health hypothesis: a narrative review of supporting evidence. Eur J Nutr 60, 1167–1180 (2021).https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00394-020-02296-z#citeas
  4. Jéquier, E., & Constant, F. (2010). Water as an essential nutrient: the physiological basis of hydration. European journal of clinical nutrition64(2), 115-123. https://www.nature.com/articles/ejcn2009111?free=2
  5. Wu SC, Crews RT, Skratsky M, Overstreet J, Yalla SV, Winder M, Ortiz J, Andersen CA. Control of lower extremity edema in patients with diabetes: Double-blind randomized controlled trial assessing the efficacy of mild compression diabetic socks. Diabetes Res Clin Pract. 2017 May;127:35-43. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5429175/
  6. Hernandez-Cardoso, G. G., Amador-Medina, L. F., Gutierrez-Torres, G., Reyes-Reyes, E. S., Benavides Martínez, C. A., Cardona Espinoza, C., … & Castro-Camus, E. (2022). Terahertz imaging demonstrates its diagnostic potential and reveals a relationship between cutaneous dehydration and neuropathy for diabetic foot syndrome patients. Scientific Reports12(1), 1-10.https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-022-06996-w

Related article: How to Reduce Foot Swelling In Hot Weather

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dehydration pin

References

  1. Taylor K, Jones EB. Adult Dehydration. 2022 May 15. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan–. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32310416/
  2. Kavouras SA, Anastasiou CA. Water physiology: essentiality, metabolism, and health implications. Nutr Today. 2010;45(6S): S27–32.https://asu.pure.elsevier.com/en/publications/water-physiology-essentiality-metabolism-and-health-implications
  3. Wu SC, Crews RT, Skratsky M, Overstreet J, Yalla SV, Winder M, Ortiz J, Andersen CA. Control of lower extremity edema in patients with diabetes: Double-blind randomized controlled trial assessing the efficacy of mild compression diabetic socks. Diabetes Res Clin Pract. 2017 May;127:35-43. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5429175/
  4. Hernandez-Cardoso, G. G., Amador-Medina, L. F., Gutierrez-Torres, G., Reyes-Reyes, E. S., Benavides Martínez, C. A., Cardona Espinoza, C., … & Castro-Camus, E. (2022). Terahertz imaging demonstrates its diagnostic potential and reveals a relationship between cutaneous dehydration and neuropathy for diabetic foot syndrome patients. Scientific Reports12(1), 1-10.https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-022-06996-w
  5. Perrier, E.T., Armstrong, L.E., Bottin, J.H., et al. Hydration for health hypothesis: a narrative review of supporting evidence. Eur J Nutr 60, 1167–1180 (2021).https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00394-020-02296-z#citeas
  6. Jéquier, E., & Constant, F. (2010). Water as an essential nutrient: the physiological basis of hydration. European journal of clinical nutrition64(2), 115-123. https://www.nature.com/articles/ejcn2009111?free=2

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Vaishnavi Bawa
Dr. Vaishnavi Bawa is a Podiatrist who specializes in treating foot and ankle pathology. LifesLittleSteps mission is to educate the public about foot health in an easy-to-understand manner using evidence-based medicine.
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