Edema is a condition in which fluid builds in your tissues, causing your feet to appear swollen. Swelling may also occur in your ankles, face and hands. This symptom has a variety of causes and methods of treatment. While low levels of potassium may increase your risk of certain conditions, this type of nutritional deficiency is unlikely to cause swelling in your feet.
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Potassium is a mineral that plays an essential role in the function of all your tissues and organs. This mineral is important in supporting the function of your heart and other muscles. Natural sources of potassium include meats, dairy products, fish and some vegetables, fruits and legumes. Most people consume adequate amounts of potassium through healthy diets, although certain medications, excessive sweating, malnutrition, vomiting and using too much salt can result in low levels of this mineral.
Hypokalemia is the medical term for low potassium. This normally occurs due to a high loss of potassium in your intestines or urine. Hypokalemia can cause symptoms that include muscle cramps, irregular heartbeat, weakness and lack of energy. The common symptoms of low potassium do not include swollen feet.
Swollen feet are often a sign of too much sodium in your diet. Other conditions that can increase your risk of swelling include normal aging and sitting or standing for too long. Being overweight can also lead to swelling in your feet. Medications that can contribute to this symptom include high-estrogen birth control pills, certain diabetes medications, steroids and antidepressants. Swollen feet may also indicate the presence of a serious health condition, such as heart, liver or kidney failure, making it important to see your doctor if the swelling continues without an obvious cause.
While low levels of potassium may not be responsible for your edema, this mineral is necessary to balance the sodium in your body. Consuming too much salt may cause swollen feet and increase your need for potassium. Most adults require 2,000 mg of potassium daily, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Consuming too much potassium can cause an abnormal heart rate. Restricting the sodium in your diet, as well as exercising and elevating your swollen feet, may help reduce the fluid that collects in the tissues.