What is Water Retention?

Water Retention

Water or fluid retention is caused by a variety of different conditions. Basically, it happens when water is not leaving the body’s tissues quickly enough. Often, water retention happens during hot weather, menstrual cycles or in conjunction with a high sodium diet. Once the body starts to retain water, you may notice swelling in the hands, feet or ankles. Ironically, drinking additional water may help your kidneys to get rid of all the unnecessary fluid and solve the problem. If you frequently deal with water retention, it may be a sign of a more serious disease or health problem.

What Does Water Retention Mean?

Water retention occurs when fluid begins leaking out of the blood stream and into the body tissues. Normally, the fluid is drained out of the body through the lymphatic system. Once it is drained away, it is emptied back into the bloodstream. If one step in this process does not work right, the body may start to retain fluid.

What are the Main Factors that Cause Water Retention?

Many different health conditions can cause water retention. Among women, water retention is often caused by the menstrual cycle, pregnancy or oral contraception. People who stand for long periods of time may deal with fluid pooling in leg tissue. Likewise, hot water, burns or dietary deficiencies may lead to water retention. If the valves in the veins are weakened, blood and fluid may pool and cause varicose veins. Other medical conditions that cause fluid retention include heart failure, kidney disease and chronic lung diseases. Allergic reaction and arthritis may also cause fluid retention.

What are the Types of Water Retention?

Normally, fluid or water retention will occur in two different ways. With generalized water retention, all of the water is pooling throughout the entire human body. This makes the body swell overall. Localized fluid retention will cause the accumulation of fluid in just one or a handful of specific areas. Typically, these areas include the legs, abdomen and face.

Where does Water Retention Occur?

  • Capillaries:

    One of the first locations for fluid retention is within the capillaries. Normally, fluid passes through these tiny blood vessels as it brings nutrients to tissue. If the pressure inside the capillary changes, it can cause water retention. This may also happen if the walls of the capillaries are leaky or if too much fluid is released.

  • The Lymphatic System:

    This system is what drains fluid from tissues and returns the fluid to the bloodstream. It consists of a network of vessels. Although the lymphatic system is normally very efficient, it can become overwhelmed by too much fluid. If this happens, it can stop returning fluid back to the bloodstream fast enough. The added fluid in the tissues leads to swelling in different parts of the body.

  • The Heart:

    Throughout life, the heart pumps blood throughout the body. If someone’s heart begins to fail, it can cause a change in blood pressure that ultimately leads to water retention. This normally leads to swelling in the feet, legs and ankles. The patient may also end up with a long-term cough due to fluid buildup in the lungs.

  • The Kidneys:

    To regulate fluid, the kidneys normally work to filter out waste and speed up excretions. In order to do this, the kidneys are supplied with blood and oxygen from the renal arteries. Once this blood enters the kidneys, it goes into small blood vessels known as the glomeruli. If the glomeruli, renal arteries or tubules are affected, the kidney may not be able to get rid of water properly.

  • Pregnancy:

    Among young women, one of the major causes of water retention is the menstrual cycle or a pregnancy. During a pregnancy, the uterus becomes heavy and weighs on veins throughout the pelvis. This makes it different for fluid to be reabsorbed into the bloodstream and water retention occurs. Once the baby is born, this situation normally resolves itself easily.

Who Suffers from Water Retention and at What Age?

Water Retention

Water retention normally occurs among pregnant women or older adults. This happens because water retention is normally a sign of an underlying problem like kidney disease, congestive heart failure, diabetes or high blood pressure. Although it tends to occur only among older adults, water retention can happen to anyone. Factors include prior health problems, allergies, certain medications and pregnancy.

What are the Adverse Effects of Water Retention?

Water retention directly causes puffiness throughout the body. It can lead to swelling in the feet, hands, legs, face and ankles. With generalized edema, the swelling can actually occur throughout the body. The skin may appear stretched and unusually shiny while the joints may become stiff. If the swelling is pressed for more than ten seconds, you will normally notice that a dimple remains behind on the skin once the area is no longer being pressed. Many people who suffer from water retention may also develop wait gain or a dull pain. The worst aspect of water retention is that it normally signifies an underlying condition. If you are dealing with water retention, you should ask your doctor about medical conditions that may cause this problem.

What are Some Ways to Seek Relief from Water Retention?

In some cases, water retention is caused by leaky capillaries. If this is the case, a doctor can prescribe medication that breaks up the protein that is causing the blockage. Other cases of water retention can be eased through losing weight or wearing supportive stocks around the legs. Limiting the amount of time you spend sitting or standing can reduce* the chances that water will pool within your legs. Most doctors will prescribe regular walks to improve* circulation. Likewise, raising the legs or massaging the affected area can help the fluid to move. Salt consumption, hot showers and saunas can make the symptoms worse.

What Type of Diet Should be Followed?

To naturally treat* water retention, you can start with limiting your salt intake. Eating bananas or high potassium foods can help lower fluid retention. Natural diuretics like cranberry juice or cabbage should be consumed. You should also make sure to continue to take your daily vitamins and drink plenty of water.

What Exercises Work Best?

Regular exercise is the key to maintaining healthy blood vessels and a good circulatory system. For health benefits, you do not have to exercise hard. Your fitness routine can be a simple 20 minute walk, yoga or Tai Chi. As long as the exercise gets your body moving, it will help your circulation and reduce* the issues you have had with water retention.

What is the Best Pill to Fight Water Retention?

Although there are many pills available, one of the best medications for reducing* water retention is Expelis. This pill works to reduce* fluid retention by working as a diuretic. According to the website and former users, Expelis can begin reducing* water retention in as little as 12 hours. Like any health condition or medication, you should always talk to your doctor.


The key to reducing* water retention is to find the underlying cause. Taking pills and reducing* salt intake is a short term solution. For long-term methods of dealing with water retention, you must solve the heart, kidney or lymphatic system problem that is causing the fluid to be retained.

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Contributor : Emily Clark (Consumer Health Digest)

Emily Clark is a medical writer with years of experience. She can be found residing in Maywood, Illinois, researching and writing on recent advances in medicine.

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