Water retention, also known as fluid retention or edema is a swelling caused by an abnormal builds up of fluid in body tissues.
The body mainly made up of water, tends to hang on the water when the hydration level is not balanced. This causes it to retain excess water hence developing swellings that often appear at any part of the body like the feet and ankles but can also appear at the face and abdomen.
Water retention is categorized into 2 categories. The first edema is characterized by swellings all over the body while the second type is the localized edema that affects particular body parts like in a leg or arm where fluids build up because of obstruction of the lymphatic system.
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Edema is further categorized according to severity as classified below:
- Peripheral edema attacks the arms, legs, ankles, and hands.
- Cerebral edema alters the brain functioning hence life-threatening.
- Macular edema occurs in the part of the eye responsible for central vision.
- Pulmonary edema: It affects the lungs where excess fluid accumulates making breathing difficult. This condition affects the general respiratory system leading to its failure.
Being a common health issue, water retention can occur daily. Some of the factors that cause water retention areas listed below.
- A flight: Remaining sited at a long period of time and the frequent changes of pressure in the cabin may cause the body to hold on to water.
- Feeble heart: A heart that cannot pump blood well causes the body to retain water
- Pregnancy: Change in weight among expectant women can cause fluid retention in the body. This occurs to women who do not exercise or move around during this period.
- Consuming of too much of salty food: Too much consumption of processed foods, soft drinks, and table salt cause fluid retention in the body. Some of the salty foods that one ought to avoid are frozen meals, canned soup, beans and vegetables, processed cheese and meats, breakfast cereals and vegetable juices that have high levels of sodium.
- Hot weather: It is during hot weather when the body tends to be less efficient at the removal of fluids from tissues.
- Certain drugs: These include some anti-inflammatory drugs, oral contraceptives such as pills, blood pressure drugs, diabetes medications, estrogen, steroids, chemotherapy treatments, and antidepressants that have water retention as a side effect.
- Fluctuating changes during the menstrual period: Fluid retention is a common experience for women in two weeks before their menstruation. This is due to a change in their hormonal levels during their menstrual cycles. A Decrease in the levels of progesterone cause water retention.
Some diseases and conditions can also cause edema as explained below
- Heart failure declines well pumping of blood as it should make the body to compensate in various ways. The body starts to retain fluid causing an increase in the volume of blood. As a result, veins are congested enlarging the liver increases its accumulation on body cavities like the abdominal cavity and in subcutaneous tissues causing leg swellings.
- Insufficient chronic venous weakens valves in the leg veins by failing to efficiently return blood to the heart causing pooling of blood in the form of swellings and changes in the skin due to their improper functioning.
- Allergic reactions: This is caused by allergens where the body tends to swell in response to them in prone individuals. It is in some cases that it gets severe hence requiring medical attention. The swelling takes only a short time.
- Lymphedema which is caused by a lymphatic system blockage, especially by cancerous tumors, causes swelling in the leg or arm.
- Deep vein thrombosis is caused by a blood clot that comes to existence from a healed surgery or during a long flight. The blood clot appears as a swelling caused by fluid retention.
- Preeclampsia is a swelling in the feet and legs that appears in pregnant women towards the end of their pregnancy. Many times it is due to dangerous blood pressure and hormonal changes in their body.
- Liver cirrhosis destroys the liver leading to scary liver failure whose symptoms include excess abdominal fluid.
- Kidney disease: diseases such as acute glomerulonephritis and nephrotic syndrome causes water retention.
- Burns on the skin including sunburns causes water retention and swellings in response to burn injuries.
- Deficiency in the diet: This is caused by the insufficiency of vitamin B1 and protein in the body.
- Sitting and standing in one position for a long time: This brings about gravity into view where standing or sitting over a prolonged time causes fluid to pool in gravity-dependent areas like the tissues of the lower leg developing edema on their skin.
- Menopause: During menopause, there are changes in hormones that can cause water retention. Hormone replacement therapy is also another cause of edema.
Symptoms of water retention
Symptoms of edema mainly depend on the cause, its location, and the type of edema. Some of the symptoms of water retention can include;
- Increase in pulse rate and blood pressure
- Aching of affected body part.
- Swelling of affected body parts, especially on the ankles, feet, and hands.
- Stiff joints.
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Changes in bowel habits.
- The skin leaves a dimple when pressed.
- Bloating especially in the abdominal area.
- Abnormalities insight.
- Unexplained pain or loss of weight.
Treatment for water retention
Treatment of water retention can be started as soon as the problem has been diagnosed. The treatment mostly includes treating the cause directly and changes directly in the diets. These treatments are as follows;
- A change in medication or dose is recommended where the drugs are for fluid retention. This has to be supervised by the doctor.
- Avoidance of seating and standing for a prolonged time is recommended.
- Extreme temperatures like hot baths are advised to avoid
- Wearing supportive stockings is advisable when the water retention is on the lower limb.
- Consumption of a low salt diet is recommended since a high intake of sodium in the salt can cause water retention. The limit of sodium intake in a day should not be more than 2300 milligrams. This means that processed and packaged foods should not be consumed due to high levels of sodium. The addition of natural spices to vegetables and lean proteins is highly recommended instead of salt.
- Water pills are also known as diuretics helps in reducing water retention by causing an increase in the frequency of passing urine. They do this by making the kidneys excrete more sodium in the urine and the sodium takes water with it from the blood. This then decreases the amount of fluid the flows in blood vessels, which reduces pressure on the artery walls. Some foods have diuretic effects, for example, adding lemon juice to water causes more frequent urination hence decreasing the amount of water retention.
- Taking of bananas and tomatoes which are among the foods that are rich in potassium, decrease sodium level in the body.
- Increasing magnesium and potassium intake in the diet prevent water retention. They help in balancing out sodium levels in the body. Good sources of magnesium include dark chocolate, leafy vegetables, whole grains, and nuts.
- Drinking plenty of water; Taking more water decreases water retention since water retention occurs because of dehydration. Providing the body with plenty of water will prevent the body from conserving water to prevent dehydration.
- Avoiding drinks like tea, soda, coffee, and alcohol because they cause dehydration.
- Walking around and doing light exercise is a remedy to prevent water retention l) Vitamin B6 intake should be increased. It importantly helps premenstrual symptoms like water retention. Some of the foods that are rich in vitamin B6 are bananas, meat, and potatoes.
- Include dairy products and fresh fruits in your diets; consumption of protein keeps the body balanced by attracting water. Proteins like albumin keep fluid in the blood strain and prevent it from leaking out and causing swelling.
- Keep your feet elevated; keeping your feet elevated can help move the water upward and away from your lower extremities.
- Consumption of crane berry juice is a natural diuretic. Substituting water for a glass of juice each day will help you greatly decreases water retention.