How the Risks of Swelling Can Affect Those With AFib

Understanding Swelling of the Hands, Legs and Feet

Afib and SwellingSwelling of the hands, feet, or other parts of your body can occur due to many health issues. If you have atrial fibrillation, your irregular heartbeat may make your heart pump less effectively. This may result in swelling of your hands, feet, or other body parts.

If you have a new onset of swelling, or if swelling increases, contact your health care provider without delay. If you experience swelling accompanied by shortness of breath or chest pain, seek emergency medical assistance immediately.

Where Can Swelling Occur?

Swelling due to an accumulation of fluids may arise anywhere in your body. Fluid accumulates most readily in parts of the body that are furthest from your heart, including your hands and feet.

Blood vessels in your hands and feet are smaller than those in your chest and abdomen, so the force of the blood within those areas is smaller too. This combination of smaller vessels and less force make fluid accumulation in the hands and feet occur when other health issues are present.

Your feet, ankles and legs are especially prone to swelling due to gravity. If you are bed- or chair-bound, you may experience swelling in the lower back or genitals due to gravity.

Types of Fluid Accumulation

Types of swelling you may experience include:

  • Edema, or swelling due to an accumulation of fluids. You may experience periorbital edema, which is swelling around the eyes, when you wake up in the morning, particularly if you sleep on your abdomen.
  • Pulmonary edema, or fluids accumulating in lung tissues. This condition is a serious problem that requires prompt medical attention.
  • Congestive heart failure (CHF) is the swelling of the heart muscle results and may be acute or chronic.
  • Pericarditis, or fluid accumulated in the exterior tissues of the heart.
  • Ascites, or is swelling in your abdomen, especially if your liver or kidneys are not functioning optimally.
  • Widespread or generalized edema throughout the body is called anasarca by health care professionals.

Comprehensive Treatment Prevents and Relieves Swelling

Effective treatment of swelling requires a multifaceted approach, so a comprehensive treatment plan must be developed. Work with your health care provider to develop a treatment plan that suits your needs.


Implement strategies at home to reduce swelling.

For example, if you have swelling of your feet, elevate them several times each day. Apply special elastic stockings before you get out of bed each morning. Over-the-counter elastic stockings may be purchased at large chain stores and pharmacies. Your health care provider may provide you with a prescription for special hosiery.

Take steps to reduce the likelihood of fluid building up. Medications and dietary strategies are key aspects of a plan to help you to manage edema effectively.

By working with your cardiologist and other members of your health care team, you will be able to reduce swelling, discomfort and the risk for complications that may result from edema.

Next page: managing edema through dietary changes

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