Water retention – causes, treatment

Water retention

In the case of water retention or water retention (med.: edemadropsyhydrops), legs, feet, arms or hands usually swell due to fluid. Edema is usually the result of diseases such as heart disease or liver disease. Normally, these edemas do not hurt, but should be examined by the doctor due to their causes.

What are water retention?

Water retention or edema manifests itself as swelling in the body tissue. Pressure causes dents that remain visible. Water retention often indicates diseases and should be used in medical treatment to clarify the underlying causes.

Short-term water retention, such as after insect bites or allergic reactions, can be quickly remedied. More difficult to treat are water retention that occupies larger parts of the body or affects the whole body. Their explanation of the causes is often difficult.


If there is a right-sided heart failurewater retention or edema occur mainly on the lower legs and ankles. In left-sided heart failure, the water collects in the lungs.

Kidney weakness can lead to water retention all over the body. Especially common are swollen eyelids. In liver inflammation, liver disease and cirrhosis, water retention occurs in the abdomen.

If fluid is pressed from the veins into the surrounding leg tissue, it is water retention in the legs. Responsible for the edema in the legs can be deep-seated leg and pelvic vein thrombosis.

Medications can trigger water retention as a side effect. If too little protein is ingested with food during diets, water retention can also occur. In the case of hormone changes, as it takes place during menopause and before menstruation, deposits in the water can also occur.

In allergic inflammatory reactions, water retention can occur locally on the skin or conjunctiva, in the nose, throat and bronchial area. Other causes can be found in high blood pressure and hypothyroidism, in venous diseases or in pregnancy.

Diseases with this symptom


Water retention or edema have various causes that can end in various complications. On the one hand, increased blood pressure (hypertension) can cause edema. Chronically elevated blood pressure, together with other factors, increases the risk of atherosclerosis.

The calcification of the vessels can end up in a closure and thus to a lack of supply of blood to downstream organs. This can lead to peripheral arterial disease (paVk), heart attack or stroke. Furthermore, heart failure (heart failure) can lead to water retention.

If left untreated, heart failure can, in the worst case, lead to a cardiac arrhythmia. Atrial fibrillation promotes the formation of blood clots on the wall in the atrium. These thrombi can detach and be carried away with the bloodstream, which can lead to embolisms, especially a pulmonary embolism if the thrombus is located in the right heart and a stroke from the left atrium.

Ventricular fibrillation can lead to circulatory arrest and eventually cardiac death. Also, a disturbance of liver function as in hepatitis or cirrhosis of the liver leads to edema. In addition, there are usually also disorders of coagulation and an enlargement of the spleen.

Depending on where the fluid accumulation is located, there are characteristic consequences. In the lungs, edema leads to chest pain and shortness of breath, while paralysis and respiratory failures are possible in the brain.

Precautionary tip:If the joints and legs are severely affected by water retention, a fall in this situation could have fatal consequences and cause further complications. reduces the risk of accidents would be helpful and of immense advantage here.

When to go to the doctor?

Water retention should always be examined by a doctor and, if possible, treated. In most cases, the water retention is caused by certain diseases of the heart and should be solved in any case. Subsequently, a causal treatment of the heart disease must also take place. A doctor can then be consulted if there is water retention in different regions of the body. In most cases, these are relatively easy to detect from the outside and may appear visible as swelling.

If these swellings occur for no particular reason, a doctor should usually be consulted. In any case, a doctor must be contacted if there are heart problems in addition to water retention. These can lead to serious complications, so that in the worst case the patient dies from them. Treatment must also be carried out for kidney complaints. If there is a loss of consciousness or a sudden cardiac arrest, an emergency doctor must be contacted in any case. Without treatment, water retention usually leads to a reduced life expectancy.

Treatment & Therapy

Basically, persistent and larger water retention belong in medical care. Cooling by compresses has a supportive effect when inflammation is responsible. Raising the legs for water removal is helpful on the legs. If the water retention originates from venous insufficiency, compression stockings and lymphatic drainage should be used.

For mild cardiac insufficiency, during pregnancy and protein deficiency, physical and drug treatments help. If the causes lie in cardiac insufficiency, kidney failure or liver dysfunction, medication is usually the first choice. Herbal remedies can help with this. Horse chestnut seeds, red vine leaves, aescin, butcher’s broom root and rutoside help with venous insufficiency. Stinging nettle and horsetail, birch leaves, hauhechelwurzel, bean pods and juniper berries also drain as tea.

Over-the-counter medications include Aescin, which has a decongestant effect after surgery and sports injuries. Bromelain, papain and rutoside help in general and in combination. The natural heparin helps with bruises and . Red vine leaves are effective for varicose veins and swelling in the legs. Hydroxyethylrutosides are used for venous insufficiency. Troxerutin prevents edema and reduces swelling on the legs. In addition, Schüssler salts should also help.

For drug therapy, thiazides and thiazide-like dehydrators can be prescribed as prescription drugs. Loop diuretics and osmotic diuretics are also used. Pulmonary edema in cardiac or renal insufficiency and edema due to cirrhosis of the liver are medical emergencies and must be treated differently.

Outlook & Forecast

A uniform prognosis for water retention cannot be made. In order to estimate the prospects of water retention, the cause of swollen legs or arms must first be clarified, because the success of therapy depends on the cause and degree of the disease.

If edema is caused by hormonal fluctuations, such as before the period or during pregnancy, the prospects for improvement are good. Because often this type of swelling has a tendency to regress. Especially if you do a lot of sports and pay attention to a low-salt and healthy diet. Even putting your legs up or performing alternating baths can already lead to success in this case.

However, if there is heart failure or kidney disease, the underlying disease must first be eliminated before the edema regresses. Therefore, the cause of the swelling must always be found first before a prognosis. Chronic edema can lead to increased skin pigmentation or in the future.

If water retention due to lyphoedema is present, the symptoms can be alleviated with regular lymphatic drainage, bath anagen or compression stockings. However, success always depends on how severe the degree of edema is and how the patient responds to treatment.

Thus, the prognosis for water retention cannot be standardized. It is always necessary to take into account the cause and severity of edema. These factors are clarified as early as possible so that a prospect of improvement can be made.


Simple home remedies such as treading water, ascending footbaths, rubbing rubbing with rubbing alcohol and elevating your legs against a wall can help. Fruits such as pineapple, mango, kiwi and citrus fruits provide Minerals and vitamins, enzymes and trace elements . Strawberries, asparagus, parsley and lettuce have a draining effect. Drinking plenty of water, a balanced diet and regular exercise and everything that is good for the body and the circulatory system stimulates the metabolism.

You can do that yourself

If the water retention is due to venous insufficiency, compression stockings or bandages can first be used to relieve the veins. If the intake of dehydrating drugs – so-called diuretics – is essential, attention must be paid to a mineral balance. Therefore, attention should be paid to a diet rich in vital substances. It could also be helpful to take dietary supplements.

In general, exercise therapy is indicated for all causes of water retention. It is enough to integrate small walks, running or walking, exercises on the trampoline or yoga units into your everyday life. The movement stimulates the metabolism as well as blood and lymph flow. Also, the – at least temporarily – renunciation of salt-rich food and animal proteins reduces water retention in the body. Many people are also affected by acidification of the body. This also leads to water retention. This requires a change in diet. Quick help with hyperacidity bring alkaline powder, alkaline body care and baths.

Another option is lymphatic cleansing. This can be used as a cure and involves the intake of various , such as: birch, field horsetail (horsetail), cat beard, dandelion,nettle, real clover,butcher’s broom or horse chestnut. These plants are available in the form of tea, plant juice, tincture or capsule as a dietary supplement. In addition, it is recommended to drink plenty of still water. This increases the amount of urine and stimulates lymphatic and blood flow as well as blood formation.

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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.