9 Weird Reasons Your Body Suddenly Feels Swollen
Face, feet, or even tongue suddenly swollen? Experts share why this happens, what you can do, and when you should worry.
You’re eating artificial sweeteners
Enjoy the sweet stuff in those pink, yellow, or blue packets? That could be what causes swelling. Author of The Sugar-Free Miracle™ Diet Handbook, Karen Bentley suggests staying far away from artificial sweeteners. She points to the Nurses’ Health study, which involved over 3,000 women and showed that just two or more servings of diet soda (which contain artificial sweeteners) a day could lead to up to a 30 percent decrease in kidney function. When kidney function is compromised, there’s less fluid in blood vessels, she explains. The result: You’re prone to body swelling. Your best bet, according to Bentley, is to refrain from eating or drinking items that contain saccharine, aspartame, or sucralose.
You’re insulin resistant
Bentley explains that if you’re insulin resistant, which is commonly linked with type 2 diabetes, you’re likely to experience body swelling. “In her book Suicide by Sugar, sugar expert Nancy Appleton, PhD, explains that insulin resistance causes the body to retain sodium,” Bentley says. “This causes the body to retain more fluid and swell.” Do your best to monitor all kinds of sugar intake—from table sugar and honey to agave and molasses—as they all have the potential to interfere with insulin production and lead to swelling. Here are 13 natural remedies for gout pain and swelling.
You’re cleaning your face all wrong
Jonathan Kantor, MD, medical director at the Florida Center for Dermatology, in Augustine, Florida, says that an improper skin care routine could be what causes swelling for you, and several other issues. “Sometimes, swelling on the face can be caused by being too rough on the skin, whether from using a loofah (don’t!) or harsh cleansers or astringents,” he says. “In these cases, often less is more.” He suggests using a very gentle cleanser on the face, washing only with your hands alone (no washcloth or scrubbing device), and refraining from picking at delicate facial skin.
You’re going heavy on the salt
Overdid it on the Chinese food over the weekend? Dr. Kantor says indulging in too much salt and MSG (both of which are very common in Chinese food) can cause body swelling. That said, cut back on foods with a high salt and MSG content. The American Heart Association suggests that adults have no more than 2,300 milligrams (mgs) of sodium daily; ideally, they recommend 1,500 mg per day as a good limit. Go easy with table salt as well as pre-packaged and processed foods which are laden with sodium. Don’t miss these 9 daily habits that could help you reduce bloating.
You ignore dental issues
Don’t put off that dentist appointment. “Lower face swelling, particularly when it’s on one side, can be caused by dental abscesses. So never let a cavity go untreated,” Dr. Kantor says. Your visits to the dentist aren’t just about cleanings and X-rays. Dental experts often check for a host of health issues, ranging from problems that can cause your face to swell to serious conditions like oral cancer and Chron’s disease.
Your shoes and gloves are too snug
Michael Miller, MD, cardiologist and the author of Heal Your Heart, says that swelling, along with fatigue and shortness of breath, can be indicative of heart failure. However, he also says there are plenty of other explanations for what causes swelling. “Perhaps the most common cause of foot, ankle, and hand swelling (outside of injury) is wearing shoes, socks, or gloves that are too tight due to constriction of blood flow,” says Dr. Miller. So while those new heels might be stunning, if you’re stuffing your feet in them and walking with pinched toes, you could set yourself up for swelling. Choose options that fit properly rather than falling victim to fashion.
You’ve been on your feet for long periods of time
Standing in line for hours waiting for must-have concert tickets or walking around more than usual? Don’t be surprised if you notice some leg swelling. Dr. Miller says that this can happen when you stand for hours on end and may be brought about by vein weakness (venous incompetence) and varicose veins. Jacqueline Sutera, a doctor of podiatric medicine and spokesperson for the American Podiatric Medical Association, agrees. She says it’s normal for lower extremities to swell in these situations, telling Women’s Health that taking regular breaks to rest your feet will allow swelling to subside. Ideally, it’s best to elevate them so they’re above the height of your heart. Here are the 10 signs of disease that your feet can predict.
You take common pain relievers or medications
Dr. Miller explains that ibuprofen, like other NSAIDS, can lead to swelling brought on by fluid retention. He also says that medications designed to treat high blood pressure (amlodipine) and diabetes (pioglitazone) can also contribute to fluid retention-related swelling. The same goes for estrogen and antidepressants. Check with your doctor to see if any medications you’re taking could be contributing to swelling in various parts of your body.
You have carpal tunnel syndrome
Tammy Olsen Utset, MD, MPH, an associate professor in the rheumatology department at the University of Chicago, tells Prevention that carpal tunnel syndrome can make you swell. “When the nerve that runs from the forearm to the palm of the hand is pinched or squeezed at the wrist, that’s when carpal tunnel develops,” Utset explains. “The resulting swelling is usually accompanied by pain, burning, tingling, or numbness in the hands and fingers—symptoms that often develop slowly over time.” These are the 10 pain symptoms you should never, ever ignore.
When swelling is something more serious
Sometimes, your swelling may be an indication of something more serious. Dr. Miller notes that swelling in a single extremity—in which trauma is not a factor—could be a sign of a skin infection or even a blood clot. In the case of a clot, you’ll likely experience a great deal of pain in conjunction with specific movements. He also explains that swelling in one leg could indicate prostate cancer; swelling in that instance often occurs when there’s a lymphatic blockage. Dr. Kantor agrees that one-sided, or unilateral, swelling is cause for concern. “On the legs, this could be caused by DVT (deep vein thrombosis), which is a medical emergency,” he says. “In other areas, it could be caused by something as serious as a tumor pressing on the lymph node drainage system.” A swollen tongue is also just as urgent. Genetic conditions as well as an allergic reaction may be at hand in this case. But the fact that an enlarged tongue could impair breathing means immediate medical attention is a must. Next, look out for these other strange symptoms that can signal a serious disease.