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Water Retention in Legs: Causes and Treatment

Retention of water in the legs is a common problem and fairly a large number of people suffer from it. Older people are more commonly affected with this condition. In this article, we will read about the causes, symptoms, and treatment of this condition.
HealthHearty Staff
Last Updated: Apr 9, 2018
Water or fluid retention in the legs and ankles is known as peripheral edema, which is the swelling of tissues due to the excess fluid in the body. The swelling is painless and may affect the legs, calves, and even the thighs. Because of the effect of gravity, swelling is particularly visible in the lower extremities of the body.

Causes of Edema in the Legs

You will see that some of the causes are relatively not serious, while there are others which should not be neglected. There are a number of fluid retention causes. A few have been enlisted below:
  • Standing for an extended period of time or sitting with legs hanging for prolonged periods of time, especially in a hot weather. This causes excess fluid accumulation in the legs and ankles.
  • The body tends to become lethargic and is less efficient in removing fluids from the tissues during summers, which often leads to edema.
  • Venous insufficiency is caused due to weakened valves in the legs, which causes varicose veins and fluid buildup.
  • Burns result in the retention of fluids in the skin, which swells in response to burn injuries (sun burns also included).
  • A number of women experience edema prior to their menstrual cycle.
  • Fluid buildup occurs during pregnancy, as the uterus puts pressure on the major blood vessel, which returns the blood to the heart from the legs. Some hormones can also encourage the body to hold on to excess fluids giving rise to this condition. A more serious condition called preeclampsia may also give rise to fluid retention during pregnancy.
  • Low protein levels in the blood caused either due to malnutrition, kidney or liver diseases lead to edema in the legs, ankles, etc.
  • Certain drugs and medication are also known to cause fluid retention.
  • If the heart is not able to pump blood effectively, the body starts to retain fluid and increases the blood volume. This leads to congestion in the veins, enlargement of the liver, and accumulation of fluid.
  • Chronic lung disease puts excessive pressure on the right ventricle causing this problem.
  • Cancerous tumors, which block the structures of the lymphatic system, like the lymph nodes, etc., may also lead to edema.
  • Hypothyroidism can also lead to fluid retention.
  • Joints affected by certain types of arthritis tend to swell due to fluid retention.
Symptoms Observed
  • Ache in the affected body parts and unexplained fluctuation in weight.
  • Rapid and sudden weight gain over a period of a few days or weeks.
  • When the skin in the affected area is pressed, the skin may hold the indent made for a few seconds.
Treating Water Retention in Legs

The treatment focuses on correcting the underlying cause of fluid accumulation.
  • Low-salt diet is often the first step to get rid of the accumulated fluid in legs. Avoiding excessive intake of fluid often also helps in bringing the condition under control.
  • If along with fluid buildup and swelling, the person is also short of breath, then the person may be recommended to lie down keeping the legs at an elevated level. This will help in reducing the swelling.
  • If swollen legs and ankles result due to pregnancy, the lady will be asked to place the legs on an elevation, which will help in normalizing blood flow and decreasing swelling.
  • Application of warm mustard oil on the affected area is one of the most commonly employed home remedies.
  • Soak two teaspoons of mustard seeds in water overnight and apply the solution on the affected areas to get relief.
  • Apple cider vinegar is also said to be beneficial in treating fluid retention in legs.
  • Foods low in carbohydrates should be consumed as carbohydrates have a high water content.
  • Regular exercise will help you get rid of excessive fluids in the body cells.
  • Smoking and alcohol consumption should be avoided.
If you suffer from edema in legs, it is important you get the problem checked by your healthcare professional to rule out the possibility of any serious ailment and treat the problem on time.

Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.