Why feet and hands swell

Swelling is caused by an abnormal build-up of fluid in the body. Called peripheral oedema, swelling is quite common in the in the ankles, feet and legs, and it may also occur in the hands. Some causes of swelling are minor and others may be indicative of a serious problem.

Common Causes

Some common culprits behind hand and foot swelling can often be rectified with proper diet and habit changes. Water retention may stem from consuming too much salt or being overweight. Prolonged standing or sitting on long car or plane trips can cause foot and leg swelling. As we age, swelling in hands and feet becomes more common.


Women are especially susceptible to hand and foot swelling, especially during the menstrual cycle. Pregnant women experience more hand and foot swelling than average. Excessive swelling during pregnancy may signal serious problems such as preeclampsia or toxaemia, which cause high blood pressure and swelling.

Indicating Health Problems

Hand and foot swelling could be a sign of an underlying problem. Leg swelling may be an indicator of kidney, heart or liver failure. These conditions cause excessive fluid to accumulate in the body. Excessive leg swelling may also mean that you have a blood clot, infection in the leg or impaired blood flow. Swelling of both hands can be caused by kidney disease, cirrhosis of the liver or congestive heart failure.


Certain medications can cause swelling of hands and feet. Hormones like oestrogen and testosterone can cause swelling and circulation issues. Calcium channel blockers that lower blood pressure, such as amlodipine, diltiazem, felodipine, nifedipine and verapamil, can cause swelling, as can antidepressants, including MAO inhibitors and tricyclics.


Should you experience excessive swelling in the hands and feet for any reason, it is recommended that you see a doctor to talk about the symptoms. The doctor can run tests, diagnose or eliminate serious issues and help you adjust your diet and habits to eliminate or reduce swelling.

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About the Author

Andrea Hermitt is an artist and writer who loves to research and write about new things. She's been a content writer since 2000, contributing to, the blog Notes From A Homeschooling Mom and other online publications. Hermitt has a Bachelor of Arts in fine art and English from the State University of New York at Albany.