What Causes Water Retention and How to Avoid It

Everybody experiences bloating and swelling of some sort every once in a while, but water retention can be a serious condition. However, water retention causes are well-known and, most of the time, the condition can often be fixed by changing a few lifestyle factors.

Edema is nothing to be embarrassed about, so read on if you’re prone to a little excessive swelling and find out what’s causing it.

What Causes Edema?

According to the Mayo Clinic: “Edema is swelling caused by excess fluid trapped in your body’s tissues. Although edema can affect any part of your body, it’s most commonly noticed in the hands, arms, feet, ankles and legs (1).

Fluid retention if often caused by certain medical conditions and medications (2).

In fact, mild water retention causes include (3):

  • Sitting or staying in one position for too long
  • Eating too much salty food
  • Premenstrual signs and symptoms
  • Pregnancy

Edema can also be a side effect of some medications, including:


  • High blood pressure medications
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Steroid drugs
  • Estrogens
  • Certain diabetes medications called thiazolidinediones
  • Pramipexole

More serious causes include congestive heart failure, liver cirrhosis, kidney disease, kidney damage, damaged veins, lymphatic issues, low albumin, allergic reactions, blood clots, burns, life-threatening infections, and more (4).

If you think you might have the condition, look out for these symptoms of edema (5):

  • Swelling or puffiness of the tissue directly under your skin
  • Stretched or shiny skin
  • Skin that retains a dimple after applying pressure for several seconds
  • Increased abdominal size

In serious cases, you may also experience shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, and chest pain. These are serious signs of pulmonary edema, which requires emergency medical treatment.


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