Fluid retention in the body is termed as edema or oedema in medical terminology. It is accumulation of water in the body tissues and can affect any tissue or organ. Rather in this condition, fluid is not flushed out of the tissues. Legs, hands, skin, and eyes are commonly affected by it. On a regular basis, some part of the fluid leaks into the tissues via blood. It is the lymphatic system, which is responsible for flushing out of the fluid from the tissues and divert it back into the bloodstream. However, sometimes the fluid is not flushed out of the body. This leads to water retention either all over the body or in certain body parts only, like ankles, hands, eye, etc. Some people also experience debilitating swelling as a result of fluid retention.
- Sitting up for long hours, especially during long haul of flights is often a cause of swollen ankles. In some people, it is being observe that if they sit up all night long, their ankles swell. The reason is, the muscles become inactive and are unable to pump fluid back towards the heart.
- Similar is the case with standing for a long period. Due to the gravitational force, the fluid in the body is pooled in the tissues of the lower part of the legs, causing ankle swelling (water retention). When the fluid is not pulled back towards the heart, it accumulates in the leg causing swelling.
- Women can experience this condition due to premenstrual syndrome or pregnancy. The hormonal changes cause the body to retain excess fluid in the body.
- High blood pressure during pregnancy also gives rise to this condition.
- If a woman is on birth control pills, the estrogen present in these pills can lead to water retention.
- If the valves in the veins of the legs are weakened, it results in inefficient return of blood to the heart, causing retention. This condition is known as chronic venous insufficiency.
- A number of medications are also known to cause swollen legs, water retention. People who are on drugs for depression, diabetes, high blood pressure, corticosteroids or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, normally suffer from swollen legs.
- Certain ailments like cardiomyopathy, kidney diseases, heart ailments, liver diseases, gout, ankle arthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis also cause edema and swelling in the feet.
- Injury to the ankle and shin bone can cause the area to swell. After injury, the next common cause is infection around the ankle joint or in the ankle joint itself.
- Lack of exercise is often said to be the cause of water retention. When you exercise, it helps the veins in the leg to work against gravity and return the blood back to the heart.
- Lack of proteins in diet is also one of the causes of water retention. Protein is essential to regulate water balance in the body. If there is protein deficiency, there will be an insufficient amount of water in the body, which will attract water from the tissue back into the capillaries, giving rise to water retention.
- Consumption of food high in sodium also causes water retention, which in fact is the most common cause of water retention.
- Many people are not aware that deficiency of vitamin B1 (thiamine) is also known to cause swelling in the ankles, due to water retention.
The common symptom is stiffened ankle joint. Along with stiffness, there can be pain in the ankle joint. If one has to check his/her weight at regular intervals, it will be noticed that there is drastic fluctuation in weight. In addition to swelling of the ankles, there can be accumulation of water under the skin, due to which there may be an indent in the skin, when one holds it for a few seconds. However, in some other cases, there will be no indent at all, which also points towards fluid retention.
You will need to consult your health care professional to properly diagnose the condition. The first precaution you can take is to minimize salt intake. High level of sodium in the body also gives rise to edema. Hence, you will have to reduce the intake of salt in your diet to treat your ankle. Some of the physicians may also prescribe diuretics to help you get rid of water retention. However, high dose of diuretics also can give rise to complications. Using a leg wedge while sleeping; so that your legs are raised above the level of the body, will also help to reduce the swelling.
Doing some leg exercises will also help in pumping the fluids back to the heart. You can choose to walk as a form of exercise, as it will exercise the leg muscles and prevent fluid accumulation and retention. There are a number of yoga exercises, which can be used for the same. Sleeping with the legs up against the wall will prove to be of help in reducing the swelling.
It is not very healthy to wear snug fitting clothes around the thighs, hips, and legs. You may want to try stockings, that are available. They will help you in reducing the swelling. These stockings come in various gradients of pressure, required. Depending on the amount of water retention and swelling, you will have to choose the correct one for yourself.
If the swelling remains persistent for a long period, you may not want to neglect it and do visit your physician immediately. Visit your healthcare professional if you have decreased urine output, fever, and if your feet are warm to touch, as these may have some serious underlying conditions.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and does not intend to be considered as a replacement for an expert medical advice.