Doctors prescribe calcium channel blockers to treat a number of conditions, including high blood pressure, migraine headaches, circulatory conditions and complications of brain aneurysms, according to MayoClinic.com. The common side effects of calcium channel blockers include peripheral edema, or swelling of the feet, ankles and legs from the buildup of fluid.
Calcium Channel Blockers
Calcium channel blockers lower blood pressure by blocking the entry of calcium into the cells of the heart and the walls of blood vessels and relaxing vessels and tissues to allow blood to flow more freely, explains MayoClinic.com. Calcium channel blockers, also called calcium antagonists, come in several forms, including short-acting medications and the slow-release, long-acting medications. Verapamil, nifedipine and diltiazem are among the eight calcium channel blockers listed by MedlinePlus, a website from the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health. Physicians often prescribe calcium channel blockers with medications to lower cholesterol, called statins, and with other types of medication for high blood pressure.
Swelling feet result from edema. The process that causes edema is a complex biological reaction involving leaking blood vessels, or capillaries, and the kidneys, which respond by retaining more water and sodium to make up for the fluid lost from blood vessels. These reactions cause fluid to build up in your body, which again causes more leakage from your capillaries. Fluid builds up in your body’s tissues, and the tissues swell. Untreated edema can cause added swelling that becomes painful, stiffness, stretched skin and poor blood circulation. Failure to treat your edema can lead to trouble walking, scarring of the tissues in your body and damage to your skin, arteries and joints, notes MayoClinic.com.
Swelling of the feet caused by calcium channel blockers is a painless condition. Swelling in the feet is more noticeable because of the effect of gravity on fluid in your body. Fluid retention might not be limited to your feet. The buildup of fluid in the feet and legs can indicate a serious condition, such as kidney, liver or heart failure, so it is important to confirm with your doctor that your swelling results from the calcium channel blocker.
St. John’s Mercy Health Care recommends that you call your doctor and ask how to relieve the swelling in your feet. Although your swelling is probably painless, you might experience discomfort from the buildup of fluid. You can prevent added swelling by refraining from sitting or standing in one position without moving for long periods. When you drive or take a flight, take time to get up and walk around. Don’t wear clothing that restricts circulation in your legs. Engage in regular exercise, and maintain a healthy weight, advises MayoClinic.com.
To reduce swelling, lie down, and elevate your feet above your heart, suggests MedlinePlus. Perform leg exercises to move fluid back to your heart, and wear support hose if necessary. A low-sodium diet can reduce swelling. MayoClinic.com recommends a massage with a firm, stroking pressure toward the heart to reduce swelling. Your doctor might prescribe a diuretic, known as a water or fluid pill, to reduce the swelling in your feet.
FamilyDoctor.org, a website from the American Academy of Family Physicians, warns that you should contact your doctor immediately if you have shortness of breath in addition to your swollen feet.