Why do your feet and fingers swell in winter? 12 reasons behind it


Feet and finger swelling in winter is a common problem people face during winter months. Did you know it can be a sign of underlying conditions? Read on to find out.

Swelling or inflammation in the feet and fingers is a common problem, often associated with conditions like arthritis. Those affected may experience joint pain, stiffness, and difficulty in movement. As winter sets in, many individuals notice physical changes, including swelling in their feet and fingers. If youโ€™ve been wondering about the reasons behind this problem and how to manage it, continue reading to understand the causes and ways to address swelling in feet and fingers in winter.

Health Shots spoke to Dr Anup Khatri, Senior Consultant-Orthopedics, to find out what causes swelling in the finger and how to avoid it.

Causes of feet and finger swelling in winter

Swelling of the feet and fingers during winter can be a result of various factors triggered by the cold temperature. Here are 12 culprits behind feet and fingers swelling in winter:

1. Reduces blood circulation

โ€œCold weather tends to constrict blood vessels in the limbs, leading to decreased blood flow to the hands and feet, especially,โ€ says Dr Khatri. This reduced circulation can cause fluid retention and result in swelling.

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2. Peripheral edema

Cold temperatures can lead to peripheral edema, a condition where excess fluid accumulates in the lower legs and hands. This can result in swelling and is very common in older adults and pregnant women.

3. Dehydration

Despite the misconception that dehydration is primarily a concern in the summer season, staying adequately hydrated is crucial during cold weather as well. Dr Khatri explains, โ€œDehydration can contribute to swelling by causing the body to retain sodium, leading to fluid accumulation in the tissues.โ€

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Drinking water
Keep yourself hydrated, no matter what. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

4. Lack of physical activity

Cold weather often discourages outdoor activities, leading to a more sedentary lifestyle. Reduced physical activity can impede blood circulation and contribute to fluid retention, exacerbating swelling in the feet and fingers.

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5. Salt retention

In colder weather, individuals may consume more comfort foods, which often contain higher levels of sodium. Excessive salt intake can lead to water retention, exacerbating swelling in the feet and hands.

Also read: If water retention leads to swelling in your body, avoid these foods

6. Vasoconstriction

โ€œCold temperatures prompt the blood vessels in the hands and feet to constrict to conserve body heat. This vasoconstriction can result in increased pressure within the vessels, leading to fluid leakage into surrounding tissues and subsequent swelling,โ€ says Dr Khatri.

7. Hormonal changes

Cold weather can impact hormone levels in the body. Hormones such as cortisol, which is associated with stress, can influence fluid balance and contribute to swelling in the hands and feet.

8. Chilblain

Chilblain is a skin condition where blood vessels get inflamed due to exposure to cold air. This condition is serious because it can even cause numbness and uncomfortable blisters.

9. Arthritis

Winter is a tough season for people with arthritis. With a drop in temperature, blood circulation slows down, which results in muscle spasms, pain, stiffness, and swelling of joints.

arthritis
Arhtiis gets worse in winter. Image Courtesy: Shutterstock

10. Raynaudโ€™s phenomenon

This condition causes blood vessels in the fingers and toes to narrow excessively in response to cold or stress, leading to reduced blood flow and increased susceptibility to swelling or inflammation.

11. Insufficient warmth

Dr Khatri says that failure to keep your arms and feet adequately warm during the winter season can trigger blood vessels to constrict, restricting blood flow and potentially causing swelling.

12. Tight footwear

During colder months, individuals may opt for warmer, but possibly less comfortable, footwear. Ill-fitting or unsupportive shoes can impede proper blood circulation, leading to swelling in the feet.

How to deal with feet and finger swelling in the winter?

Follow these 9 tips to address winter-related swelling or inflammation in your hands and feet:

1. Drink plenty of water throughout the day to avoid dehydration, which can result in swelling.
2. Be mindful of your sodium intake, especially during the colder months. Limit processed and salty foods to help prevent water retention.
3. If you avoid going out to the gym or walking during the winter season, make sure you are exercising at home to promote blood circulation in your body, reducing the likelihood of swelling.
4. When coming indoors from the cold, allow your hands and feet to warm up gradually. Sudden temperature changes can affect blood vessels and contribute to swelling.

Woman in winter clothes
Keeping warm is the best way to avoid chills. Image courtesy: Freepik

5. If swelling persists, elevate your feet when sitting or lying down. This helps drain excess fluid and can alleviate discomfort.
6. No matter whether you are at home or outside, dress in layers to regulate body temperature effectively. This can help prevent swelling.
7. Always wear warm socks and gloves to help relax blood vessels, alleviate stiffness, and reduce swelling.
8. Wear shoes and boots that provide proper support and comfort.
9. Manage your daily stress levels to avoid hormonal imbalances in your body.

Dr Khatri advises that if swelling persists or is accompanied by other concerning symptoms, itโ€™s essential to consult with a healthcare professional to rule out underlying medical conditions!



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