Fluid Retention – Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Fluid retention

Fluid retention can be due to organic causes, a hormonal change or hormonal imbalance, but also to a diet with elevated sodium levels. This can be remedied by changing your diet and doing more exercise and sport. Local external applications with old home remedies are very helpful. Oral medication is also possible for fluid retention.

What is fluid retention?

Fluid retention is an accumulation of fluid in the body due to insufficient elimination of water. This results in water retention in the tissue with the formation of effusions and edema.


The cause of fluid retention can already be found in the diet. For example, if the food is prepared with a lot of salt or is very strongly (spicy) seasoned. If a lot of sugar is consumed, the body produces more insulin, which leads to water retention. Excessive consumption of coffee and tea is bound to result in water retention.

Not drinking enough water causes the body to become dehydrated, which also leads to fluid retention. Excessive alcohol consumption can also be to blame. If there is bladder disease , liver weakness or liver disease ( e.g. liver cirrhosis ) or a malfunction of the kidneys or heart ( cardiomyopathy ), the cause can be found here because the healthy balance is lost.

An ankle joint suffering from arthritis can be the cause, just like rheumatoid arthritis . If hypothyroidism (thyroid disease) is known, insufficient hormone production can be the cause. A lack of proteins can be responsible because the blood does not receive enough protein. An extreme lack of exercise should also be considered as a cause.

A lack of vitamin B1 can lead to localized water retention in the ankles. Those taking medication for diabetes , high blood pressure and depression are also at high risk. The intake of corticosteroids , oral contraceptives and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs also leads to fluid retention.

The cause is often an existing pregnancy, especially in connection with arterial hypertension (high blood pressure). If there is water retention during breastfeeding, the hormone prolactin (required for milk production) is responsible. Menopause can also lead to fluid retention .

If the venous valves in the legs are weakened, the blood return to the heart is insufficient and water retention occurs. Then there is talk of chronic venous insufficiency. For example, anyone who sits or stands for hours at work is at high risk of fluid retention. Elevated estrogen levels often lead to water retention in men.

Symptoms, Ailments & Signs

An indefinable increase in weight and swollen legs and/or hands, but also palpitations and a general feeling of being unwell are among the first signs of a possible fluid retention. Other signs can be physical weakness and increasing tiredness of unclear origin.

It is not uncommon for phases of high blood pressure or even certain heart diseases to occur. The complexion increasingly shows signs of cellulite . Swelling of the skin, often with a shiny skin surface, is also observed. In most cases, dents form that remain visible for up to several minutes. If the swelling (edema) continues to increase, the suspicion of pre-eclampsia should be ruled out by appropriate laboratory tests.

Protein can almost always be detected in the urine. The first signs of preeclampsia are a severe headache and seeing spots in front of the eyes. Swelling of the face with the formation of bags under the eyes, as well as swollen hands and fingers and a swollen abdomen are also typical features. In order to rule out the risk of cardiac or renal insufficiency and hypertrophy (organ enlargement through the enlargement of individual cells), consultation with an experienced specialist is urgently recommended.

In this way, the development of hyperplasia (increased number of cells in an enlarged organ) can be prevented in good time. Difficulty breathing should also be treated immediately by a doctor. In bodybuilders, the defined muscle shapes can be lost due to the fluid retention.

Diagnosis & History

The diagnosis of fluid retention can be made sonographically (also using CT and MRI ). Fluid retention in the arms and legs usually feels heavy at first. The tissue swells and edema and cellulite develop. Other signs include swelling of hands and fingers, facial swelling and bags under the eyes.

Water retention in the abdomen leads to a bloated abdominal wall and often also to flatulence . If the deposits are in the lungs, shortness of breath can be observed. Water in the heart leads to palpitations. Exhaustion, tiredness, unclear weight gain and physical discomfort are the general signs.


Persistent fluid retention can cause a number of ailments. The typical complications of a disturbed water balance include weight gain and increased blood pressure. A chronically elevated heart rate can lead to certain heart diseases and permanently damage the vessels.

Other complaints can be physical exhaustion and increasing tiredness . In addition, a general malaise usually occurs, which intensifies as the disease progresses. If the fluid retention is not treated or only treated insufficiently, the general symptoms also worsen and other, sometimes life-threatening diseases of the cardiovascular system occur.

Depending on the causative disease, the complexion sometimes changes and shows signs of cellulite. Dents often appear, which increase with pressure and remain visible for a few minutes. The water retention in the tissue can also lead to swelling in the legs and hands. In the long term, edema and effusions can develop, which can become infected.

As the disease progresses, fluid eventually accumulates in the lungs. This can lead to shortness of breath and sudden shortness of breath. Serious complications are unlikely when treating fluid retention.

When should you go to the doctor?

A doctor should be consulted as soon as irregularities appear in the organism. Unusual swelling, unexplained weight gain, and a feeling of tightness in the body are all indications that should be evaluated by a medical professional. If water retention occurs, it is generally advisable to have a doctor examine it.

If the amount of liquid excreted decreases when urinating for no reason and over a longer period of time, this observation should be discussed with a doctor. With a constant supply of liquids, it is considered unusual if the amount of urine decreases noticeably without a comprehensible reason such as a strong influence of heat.

If this condition persists for several days, a doctor’s visit is recommended. A changed complexion should be presented to a doctor. If the skin is unusually shiny or dents form, a doctor’s visit is necessary. If you have persistent or recurring headaches, swollen hands or feet or bags under your eyes, it is advisable to see a doctor for a check-up.

If the waist circumference seems to be increasing for no reason or if there are breathing problems, a doctor must be consulted. If your blood pressure rises, your heart starts racing or you feel a feeling of warmth, you should discuss this with a doctor. If you are having trouble sleeping or having trouble concentrating, you should see a doctor as there is cause for concern.

Treatment & Therapy

The treatment is based on a very differentiated diagnosis, which clearly shows the source of origin, and begins with certain measures in the choice of food. A low-salt diet comes first. It can easily be replaced by herbs, but also cardamom and algae. Eating a diet low in sodium is also important. Because of this, cheese, red meat, cured meats, smoked foods, soy sauce, cod, and alcohol must be severely restricted.

Cow’s milk, including chemically modified lactose-free milk, should be eliminated entirely. On the other hand, vegetarian dairy products made from almonds , rice and soya are very good . In addition, oats and potatoes as well as lots of vegetables (e.g. leeks, asparagus , mushrooms , celery , onions , broccoli , olives , artichokes (diuretic) and pumpkin , which “cleans” the veins and arteries.

Adequate hydration in the form of still, low-sodium water (at least two liters) flushes harmful toxins out of the body. Unsweetened herbal teas as well as green tea and fresh vegetable juices are also recommended in moderation for fluid retention. If the fluid retention is associated with flatulence, then bananas , blueberries, pineapple , papaya, strawberries , but also blueberry juice and goji berries will help. These are also very beneficial because of their diuretic effect.

Moderate sports such as cycling, gymnastics, swimming and training on the horizontal home trainer and leg press support the work of the kidneys. Brisk walking over a daily period of at least 30 minutes is very good. Anyone who sits for many hours a day should keep their legs stretched out from time to time. This also works very well under the desk.

Getting enough sleep with your legs slightly elevated is also extremely important. A tried and tested home remedy is to apply mustard wraps to the affected areas or to rub apple cider vinegar on them . Experience has shown that ointments with tiger grass and horse chestnut as well as Bach flowers (e.g. larch and crab apple) help very well.

Likewise, manual lymphatic drainage or tecar therapy or draining pressure therapy with massage . Creatinine should not be used as a dietary supplement because it promotes water retention. Oral medication can be given with a thiazide diuretic in mild cases and with a loop diuretic, which increases frequency and urine volume, in advanced stages. The best from the medicine chest are dandelion tablets .

Outlook & Forecast

The prospect of a cure for the symptom of fluid retention depends on the underlying disease. Pregnant women often suffer from water retention, which normally disappears completely within the coming months after the birth.

If the deposits are based on hormonal fluctuations or the administration of medication, the state of health improves as soon as the hormone balance is back in balance or the medication has been discontinued. Fluid retention occurs in many women, especially in the transition phase to the menopause, and this recedes as the development progresses.

If a lack of exercise is the cause of water retention, a change in lifestyle is necessary for recovery. With sufficient physical activity or doing sports, the organism normally begins to remove the stored fluids independently. Significant improvements in health can already be seen after a few weeks, and with regular, sufficient exercise, the patient can be symptom-free within a few months.

If the fluid retention is due to a lack of fluid intake, the daily intake must be increased for recovery. If there is a chronic disease, the prognosis often worsens. In most patients with organic problems, arthritis or diabetes, no cure can be expected. The symptoms that occur are integrated into the therapy plan with the aim of alleviating them.


A low-sodium diet, prepared with lots of fresh vegetables and protein-rich foods (especially fish and plant-based protein) and supplemented with fresh fruit, is an optimal prophylactic measure to prevent fluid retention.

Avoiding refined sugar is also good for your health. The fluid intake in the form of low-sodium water should be at least two liters. Sufficient daily exercise and regular sport strengthens the body as a whole. Putting your feet up should be a matter of course for everyone who mainly sits or stands.


In the case of fluid retention, in most cases the affected person has no direct aftercare options. However, this is not absolutely necessary, since the disease itself must be treated in the first place. Early detection and treatment of fluid retention is important to avoid complications.

In most cases, patients with fluid retention rely on a low-salt diet. The salt can be replaced relatively easily with other herbs so that there are no problems when eating. It is also important to look out for low-salt articles and foods to alleviate the symptoms.

In many cases, fruit also helps relieve bloating and minimize fluid retention symptoms. It is not uncommon for movements to help, whereby the person concerned should walk for at least 15 minutes every day. A healthy lifestyle with a healthy diet has a universally positive effect on the course of this disease.

Life expectancy also usually remains unchanged. If the symptoms of fluid retention cannot be alleviated by self-help measures, it is advisable to consult a doctor.

You can do that yourself

Patients with fluid retention can achieve significant relief from their symptoms in everyday life if they change their lifestyle. Optimizing food intake and getting enough exercise reduces existing symptoms and improves quality of life.

Reduce the consumption of sugar or products that promote the conversion of nutrients into sugar. The use of intensive spices in the preparation of the meals should be avoided as far as possible. In particular, salt or overly spicy seasonings should be avoided. When it comes to fluid intake, care should be taken to ensure that coffee and tea are not consumed excessively.

Mineral water or natural juices are better choices for well-being and health improvement as they do not lead to excessive water retention. The intake of sufficient liquid is important to stabilize the organism and not to create an undersupply. Adults should consume two liters of mineral water daily to prevent dehydration.

In addition to a healthy and balanced diet , sufficient exercise is important to alleviate existing symptoms. Walks or sporting activities promote well-being and stimulate the metabolism. For mental stabilization, the patient can independently carry out relaxation exercises. This reduces stress and promotes inner balance in everyday life.

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Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.