Water retention edema and thyroid disease

Written by sarah rigg
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Water retention edema and thyroid disease
Water retention and oedema may be signs of thyroid disease. (Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of Frédéric DUPONT)

Having puffiness in your face and other parts of the body, a sign of oedema, is common with untreated or under-treated hypothyroidism. Read on to find out why this occurs and what you can do about it.

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Definition of Edema

Oedema is another term for water retention. Hands, feet and other body parts swell and look puffy when the body's tissues retain too much fluid.

Causes of Edema

Many health conditions and medications, as well as menstrual changes and pregnancy, can cause oedema. The thyroid disease most commonly linked with oedema is hypothyroidism, a condition in which the thyroid is underactive and the body's metabolism is slowed.

How Thyroid Disease Causes Edema

Hypothyroidism causes the body's functions to slow down, including the lymphatic system. When thyroid disease slows the drainage of the body's lymph nodes, this contributes to fluid retention.

Areas Most Commonly Affected

Oedema is usually most noticeable in the hands, arms, ankles and feet. However, oedema, or puffiness, in the face is also a classic symptom of hypothyroidism.


If water retention is caused by a thyroid condition, getting proper treatment---including thyroid hormone replacement medication---will often improve that symptom. Lifestyle changes, such as limiting salty food and staying active, can also help the body pass excess fluid.

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