May 13, 2019

Swollen hands and feet – What does it mean?

Foot and Ankle | Health Tips


Swelling in the hands and feet is not that uncommon. When your hands and feet swell, it typically means that extra fluid has built up in your body’s tissues. There are a number of different reasons why this could occur.

Jessica Regan, former OrthoIndy clinical nutrition manager and dietitian, explains why your hands and feet may swell and how to reduce swelling with a low-sodium diet.

What are swollen hands a sign of?

‘Edema’ is the medical term for swelling. Edema happens when your small blood vessels leak fluid into nearby tissues. Body parts swell from injury or inflammation. Below are a few additional reasons to why your body may swell.

  • Medications
  • Pregnancy
  • Infections
  • Physical inactivity
  • Hot temperatures
  • Hormone changes
  • Alcohol (an inflammatory substance)  

However, if you wake up with swollen hands and feet, but did not find a reason listed above, this could be a sign of arthritis.

“When your feet swell this can be cardiac related, venous stasis, which is slow blood flow in the veins, venous insufficiency, which is when leg veins are not working effectively or rheumatoid arthritis,” says Dr. Robert Falender, OrthoIndy hand, wrist and elbow specialist.

“Hands will swell from arthritic conditions and from the heat which could be related to vasodilation, the widening of blood vessels.”

The Ultimate Guide to Foot and Ankle Injuries

What can you do for swollen hands and feet?

It is important to take the necessary steps to reduce swelling, not only for your own comfort, but because this extra fluid can also raise your blood pressure, leading to other health complications.

“One way to reduce swelling is to consume a diet that is low in sodium,” says Jessica. “Too much sodium can cause the body to hold on to extra water.”

The USDA Dietary Guidelines recommends limiting sodium intake to 2,300 mg per day. If you are swelling in certain areas more often than normal, you may want to aim for a goal of 2,000 mg or less per day.

Tips for reducing swelling in the hands and feet

  • Select fresh foods over processed foods
  • Check the nutrition facts label and aim for foods with 130 mg of sodium
  • Flavor your foods with herbs and spices instead of salt
  • Exercise your legs as this can help pump fluid from your legs back to your heart

If symptoms persist or worsen, make an appointment with a specialist right away.

Learn more tips for living an active and nutritious lifestyle 

Schedule an appointment

Your well-being is important to us. Click the button below or call us to schedule an appointment with one of our orthopedic specialists. If your injury or condition is recent, you can walk right into one of our OrthoIndy Urgent Care locations for immediate care. For rehabilitation and physical therapy, no referral is needed to see one of our physical therapists.

Schedule an Appointment Call OrthoIndy 317.802.2000
Ashley McGovern

By Ashley McGovern

Ashley was the PR coordinator for OrthoIndy from 2018 to 2020. Ashley graduated from Purdue University in 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in public relations and strategic communications with a certificate in entrepreneurship.

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