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Water Retention in the Body

Do you know the causes water retention in the body? Let us help you understand this condition better.
Batul Nafisa Baxamusa May 10, 2019
Water retention in the body is commonly referred as edema. Before looking at its causes and symptoms, however, it would be better for you to answer the following questions:
  • Within the course of the same day, do you observe weight gain and weight loss by several pounds?
  • Do you find your tummy area to be bloated and swollen?
  • Do you notice, you cannot reduce below a certain weight, even after going through endless diets?
  • Are your legs and ankles swollen and looking bigger than normal?
  • Have you noticed that your shoe size has increased?
  • Are your finger rings becoming tighter?
  • Are you experiencing breast tenderness frequently?
If you have answered all or most of the questions as 'Yes', then you are suffering from water retention.

Vital Information

Water retention in the body is building up of excess fluids in body that are stored in the cell tissues. This excess water causes bloating and tight skin, swelling of arms and legs, redness of skin, pain, etc. The medical term for this is 'edema'. Under normal human body systems, the fluid is drained from the body tissues through the lymphatic system.
The lymphatic system is a network of tubes around the body that helps in removal of waste and extraneous material into the bloodstream. But, when the fluid from the lymphatic system is not removed properly, it leads to water retention in the body tissues. This in the body tissues leads to edema.


This condition can be categorized into two types. The generalized edema is seen when the entire body swells, and localized edema is observed where a specific part of the body swells up. The feet and legs are the most common, localized edema examples. The other edemas include swelling of the abdominal cavity, hands, legs, pulmonary edema, etc.


This is a symptomatic disease that may indicate a very serious disorder in the body. One of the common causes is eating too much salt in the normal diet. Gravity may also be one of the causes. Prolonged standing or sitting in the same position may cause edema. Many times, it is due to disturbance in the blood flow to the legs.
This may be due to damage of veins or valves that leads to fluid retention. Many times, sun burns, hot weather, nutritional deficiencies, etc., also add up to the list of causes.
Heart diseases, like congestive heart failure that leads to obstruction to the normal circulation of blood also leads to this condition. Many times, blood flow to the heart backup and leaks into the lungs and veins, leading to fluid retention or the kidney retains fluid due to the insufficient amount of blood flow.
Liver diseases, like cirrhosis of liver also leads to low protein albumin synthesis due to poor liver function. This leads to water retention in the abdomen and legs.
Lung diseases that are chronic in nature lead to pulmonary edema, ascites, neck, face, ankle, and feet swelling. Smoke inhalation injury, acute respiratory distress syndrome, lung cancer, etc., may also cause the mentioned retention in the body.
The main cause of localized swelling in the abdominal, leg, feet and ankle areas is due to kidney problems. Kidney failure or glomerular diseases cause localized swelling. Other kidney diseases can lead to generalized swelling in the body. Many times, it is a side effect of medications, like anabolic steroid, calcium channel blockers, methadone, etc.
In women, this condition is commonly seen during menstruation periods. Thus, they are asked to eat small meals and snacks during the day, to prevent further swelling of the body.
Pregnant women frequently have this problem, as the developing uterus may press the vena cava. Thus, they suffer from fluid retention in legs. The hormonal imbalances are also a major reason. Therefore, you may observe swelling of extremities like ankles and feet during pregnancy.


The following are some of the symptoms of water retention in the body.
  • Swelling of skin that makes it stretchy and shiny. This is seen in the legs and lower back.
  • You may observe a dimple formed for a few minutes when you press the swollen area.
  • Breathing difficulties.
  • Bloated abdomen.
  • Rapid weight gain in a few days.
  • Rapid weight loss in a few days.


▶ You should reduce the intake of sodium in your diet. Avoid junk foods, canned foods, and processed foods. You should eat bland foods for a few days. If you reduce the amount of salt in your diet by 1000 milligrams per day, the problem can easily be avoided.
▶ You can use diuretics to help stimulate the kidneys flush out excessive water and sodium. You should take diuretics only when advised by the doctor. Diuretics cause decrease in blood volume that leads to low blood pressure.
▶ You should eat more of starchy foods, like bread, cereals, crackers, pasta, potatoes, and rice to help maintain blood sugar level. This will help as the body will avoid breaking down sugar molecules to water, thus reducing excessive fluid retention.
▶ You should drink 8 glasses of water every day. The body remains hydrated and thus, avoids retaining extra water.

▶ Exercise is another cure. The exertion causes increase in fluid to the kidney and flushing out of excessive fluids from the body.
This was a little information about water retention in the body. You should consult a doctor if you observe this condition in yourself. The best way to treat edema is following doctors advise. The doctor may also be able to diagnose the underlying disorders that cause this condition in the first place.
Disclaimer: This is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.