If This Happens To Your Feet, It Could Be A Sign Of Kidney Problems

Our feet and ankles work hard every day, supporting our body weight and maintaining balance. Anyone can get swollen and achy feet from time to time, which is often due to too many hours spent standing, walking, or carrying a heavy load. And usually, the best treatment for tired and swollen feet is just giving them a little TLC by sitting back, elevating the feet, and getting some rest.

But feet can become swollen for more serious underlying problems as well. Swelling, also known as edema, happens when excess fluid becomes trapped within the body tissues. This often happens in the feet and ankles, as gravity causes blood to pool in the lower extremities, making it harder for it to recirculate upwards again throughout the body (via Harvard Health Publishing).

The kidneys play a vital role in balancing body fluids and clearing out waste products from the blood (via Advanced Foot & Ankle of Wisconsin). Fluid retention is a common symptom when kidney function is impaired due to infection or disease.

Resting and elevating feet can help reduce swelling

Dr. Britt Marcussen, assistant professor of family medicine at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine, tellsĀ Health, "Normally people [with foot swelling] go home and put their feet up, and the body reabsorbs that little bit of extra fluid, and the kidneys just get rid of it. [With] kidney problems, your body has trouble getting rid of that fluid, then that swelling is more marked and more dramatic."

It can be hard to know when swollen feet are a just result of overuse and need a little rest and when they might signal a serious underlying condition. Dr. James Ioli, chief of podiatry services at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital and co-editor of the Harvard Special Health Report Healthy Feet, advises, "Report your symptoms to your doctor if there's so much swelling that it leaves an indentation if you press your finger into it, or if it has developed suddenly, lasts for more than a few days, affects just one foot, or is accompanied by pain or discoloration of the skin" (via Harvard Health Publishing).

Swollen feet might be your body's way of telling you to take a break, or they might be a sign that it's time to see your doctor. In either case, pay attention to them.