Chronic swollen feet are a common complaint in the elderly. Edema, the medical term for swelling, is caused by fluid becoming trapped in the tissue of the body. There are four main signs of edema in the legs and feet.
- Shiny or stretched skin around the legs or feet
- Discomfort and reduced mobility in the legs or feet
- Skin that leaves an impression or indentation after being pressed.
There are many possible causes of edema in the legs and feet, some of which are as simple as standing for too long. Here are seven require medical attention, some of which require immediate attention.
1. Heart disease
People with heart disease are often unable to efficiently pump blood throughout the body. This can cause the body to retain salt and water, resulting in swollen legs and feet. Other symptoms of heart disease include shortness of breath, weakness, and sudden fatigue. Someone experiencing any of these systems should seek immediate medical attention.
2. Blood clot
Blood clots occur when platelets stick together and obstruct the circulation of blood in the body. When these clots occur in the legs, they can prevent blood from returning to the heart. In extreme cases, for example, when blood clots develop deep within the legs, the condition can be extremely serious, since the clots may detach from the leg and travel to the heart, the lungs, or the brain. This is called a deep vein thrombosis, and requires immediate medical attention.
An infection in any part of the body can compromise the body’s ability to function properly. Out-of-control infections — a particular risk in diabetics — can spiral out of control in a very short period of time, and become life-threatening. If a diabetic is aware that they have an infection, and a notice unusual swelling in the feet or legs, they should immediately seek their doctors advice.
4. Venous insufficiency
Venous insufficiency is caused by damaged valves, which causes blood to leak out of the blood vessels. The blood and other fluids often accumulate in the lower part of the body, especially in the legs and feet. Venous insufficiency can be treated with lifestyle changes, such as exercise; compression hose; or, in severe cases, with surgery.
5. Kidney disease
There are often no warning signs when the kidneys begin to fail. However, as the kidneys begin to function less efficiently, they become unable to flush out fluid, which consequently begins to build up in the body. Swollen feet and ankles are often an early indication of kidney problems.
6. Liver disease
Liver disease inhibits the production of albumin, a protein that helps prevent blood leaks from blood vessels. Blood leaks can cause circulation problems, which can result in a fluid buildup in the lower part of the body, especially in the legs and feet.
7. A side effect of a particular medicine
There are a variety of medications that can cause swollen legs and feet, especially medications which are associated with water retention. Included among these medications are several blood pressure medications, steroids, antidepressants, diabetes medications, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and hormones such as estrogen and testosterone.
Although these medications may be required for one’s health, if the medications cause edema, it should be reported to one’s doctor. There may be an alternative medicine which does not cause this side effect.
Beacon of LIFE, in Oceanport, NJ, is a government-approved PACE program created to provide seniors, their family, caregivers and professional health care providers the flexibility to meet their health care needs while continuing to live in their community.
Beacon of LIFE maintains an interdisciplinary team of professionals who give each client the coordinated care they need. Our staff specialize in working with older people, and work with each client and their family to provide effective care, including noting such changes as swelling in the feet or legs.
Our care and services allow people who would otherwise need to live in a nursing home to live where they want — in their own communities, in their own homes.