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Home > Articles & Information > Food & Nutrition > About Water Retention (Edema)

Home > Articles and Studies > About Water Retention (Edema)


Do you have problems with water retention?

Water retention, or edema, has numerous causes. Sometimes these are mild illnesses or conditions, but at other times, water retention can suggest severe illnesses. Water retention may be expressed as puffy ankles, feet, wrists and arms, or manifests as ascites, which is the gross accumulation of fluids in the abdomen. Since water retention may be symptomatic of serious illness, consulting a doctor to find the cause is important.

One of the most common causes of water retention can be most easily addressed. Too much salt in the diet, even just occasionally, may cause brief episodes of water retention. This can be addressed by lowering sodium content in your diet. You shouldnít completely reduce sodium, but keeping sodium intake at small amounts by avoiding processed foods is often very helpful. Salt is a natural way to help the body retain water, which it can store and later use; so itís an important element in diets, but should not be overused.

Being cautious when in the sun also reduces another common cause, sunburn. Severe sunburn may lead to water retention and blistering. It makes good sense to protect the skin from sunburn in any case, since sun damage to the skin is linked to higher skin cancer rates. Burns of any kind, whether from the sun or other sources lead to water retention because the body secretes toxins at a high rate. This overloads the kidneys causing the body to store water in other areas of the body. Especially 2nd and 3rd degree burns may create a little water retention, and when these burns are extensive, they can create severe edema.

Poor nutrition or inability to absorb nutrients may create water retention. Too little albumen in the blood, one of the major proteins in blood plasma is another causal factor. Usually reduced albumen suggests insufficient intake of protein, or may indicate kidney disease. Both of these can lead to poorly working kidneys and a higher rate of water retention.

Any disease of the kidneys, liver or heart is partly expressed by water retention. Certain medications may cause the condition too. These include: steroids, some blood pressure medications, estrogen, anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen, and medications for diabetes called thiazolidinediones.

Another common cause is pregnancy, especially during the third trimester. High levels of hormones right before a woman's period can result in slight swelling and many women battle water retention during pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS). Though medications like ibuprofen may help reduce cramping, they may also make water retention worse.

When the cause of water retention is benign, a few things, under doctorís advice can help reduce the condition. Reduce dietary intake of salt or sodium. Try to get regular exercise and remain active. Elevating the limbs above the level of the heart may reduce some of the swelling caused by water retention. When you do take a rest, keep your feet elevated, or make sure your hands are above your heart by placing a few pillows around you. Consultation with your doctor can lead you to other methods for reducing water retention and treating any underlying causes.