Healthy Living

Why Do My Feet Swell After Drinking Alcohol?

Why Do My Feet Swell After Drinking Alcohol?

Key Takeaways

  • If your edema occurs after a bout of beer but disappears within a day or two, it is not something to worry about.
  • If you have been drinking alcohol for several years, then you may go on to develop a more serious condition known as liver cirrhosis.
  • Consuming too much alcohol for a long period of time can have toxic effects on your heart.

It is a common complaint that people develop edema after consuming beer or any other alcoholic beverages. Edema occurs when there is an excessive fluid collection in the tissues of your ankles and feet. Not just exclusive to the feet and ankles, edema can also develop in your hands, legs, abdomen, and other parts of your body. Continue reading this article to learn why edema occurs after consuming alcohol.

If your edema occurs after drinking a beer or other alcoholic beverage but disappears within a day or two, it is not a cause for great concern. However, if your ankles swell frequently and this swelling lasts for several days without going down, then it is something that merits concern and the issue should be addressed soon. In cases where there is constant swelling that lasts for extended periods, this could be an indication that you are experiencing a problem with your heart, liver, or kidneys.

Listed below are some of the symptoms that are often found in those suffering from edema.

  • Swelling – The area that is affected by edema will be swollen.
  • Stretched skin – Due to the swelling that edema causes, the part of the body that is affected will appear shiny and stretched on the surface.
  • Mobility issues – If your legs are affected with edema, the swelling can hinder your ability to walk.
  • CoughEdema that is present in the lungs can lead to coughing or breathing issues.

Temporary Swelling

Antidiuretic Hormone (ADH), also known as vasopressin, is a hormone that is produced by the hypothalamus. It is in constant communication with your kidney, telling it how much water should be conserved and how much it should expel. ADH constantly regulates and balances the water content in your blood. When an individual consumes alcoholic beverages, this alcohol depresses the ADH. The reduced ADH level together with the direct effects on the kidneys lead to excessive loss of water. The result will be you needing to visit the bathroom many times to urinate. This becomes even more prominent when you begin to consume alcohol.

When you stop consuming alcohol, the ADH level rebounds back and causes your kidneys to retain water once more. Alcohol also changes how your kidneys handle electrolytes such as potassium and sodium. As a result, the total body water is temporarily increased after drinking. This will manifest as an ankle swelling. However, this swelling will subside after a day or two if you are healthy and do not frequently consume large amounts of alcohol. 

Liver Cirrhosis

If you are a chronic or heavy drinker, then you may notice the swelling of your feet and ankles lasts for several days. Under these circumstances, this extended period of swelling is usually an indication that you have a more serious condition such as liver problems. For individuals with liver problems, their symptoms may be few or none at all, and any symptoms that are present may not directly indicate that liver disease is the cause of them.

If you have been consuming alcohol for several years, then you may go on to develop a more serious condition known as Liver Cirrhosis. A complication of liver disease, liver cirrhosis involves a loss of cells in the liver and scarring of the liver that is irreversible. Here, your liver undergoes serious damage and scarring of the liver tissue. This will further decrease the functions of the liver. Scarring of the liver also affects the blood flow to the liver leading to an increase in the pressure within the portal vein, which is the vein that comes from the liver. This situation is known as portal hypertension, which may lead to marked water retention. The following are some of the symptoms of liver cirrhosis:

  • Yellowed skin – This is caused by bilirubin accumulation in the blood. The common term for this condition is jaundice.
  • Fatigue – Individuals with liver cirrhosis may experience extreme exhaustion.
  • Weakness – A weakened state is not uncommon for those with this condition.
  • Appetite loss – There may be little to no appetite.
  • Bruising – With this condition, you may find that you tend to bruise easily.

Those who heavily consume alcohol are more prone to develop a condition known as Alcoholic Hepatitis. Alcoholic hepatitis is a liver disease in which your liver becomes enlarged and inflamed. As a result, your liver is unable to carry out its normal function. Swelling of the feet and hands as well as swelling of the abdomen are common signs of this condition.

Alcoholic hepatitis does not affect all those who drink heavily. It would also be incorrect to assume that this condition only affects those who consume excessive amounts of alcohol. In fact, alcoholic hepatitis has been diagnosed in those who only consumed alcohol moderately. This is what makes the condition so complex. It is imperative for individuals with alcoholic hepatitis to cease all consumption of alcohol. For those who continue to consume alcohol after being diagnosed with this condition, doing so may lead to severe damage to the liver or even death.

Kidney Disease

As was previously mentioned, alcohol can have direct effects on your kidneys as well. Your kidneys are the main organs that are responsible for controlling the content of water in your body. As alcohol damages the kidneys, they are unable to carry out this function. As a result, fluid accumulation occurs as more body water is retained. In addition to this, an electrolyte imbalance also occurs which too contributes to your ankle swelling.

Alcoholic Heart Disease

Consuming too much alcohol for a long period of time can have toxic effects on your heart as well. This leads to weakening and stretching of the cardiac muscle over time. This condition is known as alcoholic cardiomyopathy. As your heart is now weak, it has a great difficulty to supply adequate blood to your body tissues. If you do not cease consumption of alcohol after this condition develops, you may go on to develop heart failure over time. Fluid will leak into your lungs and body tissues. Some of the common symptoms experienced by people with heart failure are swelling of the feet and ankles, shortness of breath, and swelling of your abdomen which is known as ascites.