The Symptoms of Water Retention

Water retention is a symptom of an imbalance in body function, causing fluid build-up in body tissues. The condition is also called bloating or oedema and can be localised or general, transient or chronic. Water retention is usually a symptom of cardiovascular disease, kidney impairment or hormone imbalance. Swollen ankles and legs after airline travel can indicate sensitivity to pressurised chambers and reduced activity on the plane. Water retention can be treated and should be checked by a medical professional to rule out an underlying condition or disease.


Water retention is the accumulation of excess fluid in body tissues or bloating. Water retention is observable in extremities, most notably in the face, ankles, legs and wrists. It can cause discomfort.


Symptoms of water retention include general feelings of tenderness or tightness in the ankles, legs or feet which appear more swollen than usual (oedema). When bloated areas are pressed with fingertips, temporary indentations are noticeable that don't immediately spring back.


An imbalance in hormones, excess sodium and certain medications can affect circulation and increase water retention in body tissues. Impaired kidney function can cause less fluid to be processed and excreted.


Medications, shifting hormone levels (such as around menopause or menstruation), frequent airline travel and cardiovascular disease are common causes for water retention. Changes in blood or environmental pressure can affect water retained in tissues and cleared by circulating blood.


Depending on the cause for water retention, excess fluid build-up in tissues can be treated with diuretics and reducing the amount of dietary sodium. Exercise, compression stockings and positioning to improve circulation can also alleviate water retention.

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About the Author

Regina Edwards has been a freelance writer since 1990. She has penned video scripts, instructional manuals, white papers and abstracts. She has also ghostwritten diabetes journals. Edwards is a scuba instructor and Usui and Karuna Reiki teacher. She holds a Bachelor of Science from Saint Joseph's University.