Why does the body retain fluids?

The body contains a high percentage of water, which is found inside and outside the cells. Under normal conditions, these fluids remain in equilibrium; However, When faced with certain health problems, the body retains fluids.

This situation is called edema and It is defined as a palpable swelling produced by the accumulation of extracellular fluid (found outside the cells). It is very common in practice and the possible causes are very varied. Next, we detail more about it.

Why does the body retain fluids?

whole organism need liquid for its correct functioning. Water is present in blood, muscles, bones, fat and every organ. As we have discussed, these fluids are present both inside and outside the cells.

In turn, what is outside can be divided between what is inside the blood vessels (arteries, veins and capillaries) and what is outside them in a space called the interstitium.

Permanently, in a healthy body smooth movements between different compartments (cells, blood vessels and interstitium), as needed by the body. This constant redistribution of fluids is governed by a complex balance of pressure gradients (pressure differences).

There are situations in which the fluid balance can be altered, with the consequent increase of the same in the interstitium. This is what we all know as “fluid retention” or “edema”. It can occur generalized or localized. Let’s look at its possible causes.

Foot edema with pain
Some pathological situations can alter the balance of body fluids. This situation is what we know as fluid retention.

Causes of water retention

If the body retains fluids, it is advisable to seek medical advice. While it doesn’t always hide a serious problem, sometimes it is sign of a disease. Therefore, if the symptom is persistent or appears and reappears regularly, it is best to request the relevant tests.

Heart failure

When the heart doesn’t work properly, it has difficulty pumping blood to other organs. As a result, there is an accumulation of blood in the venous circulation and the function of the kidneys is reduced.

Both situations generate fluid retention in the venous circulationwith edemas that are clinically evident in areas of decline, for example, in the lower extremities when standing. Enlargement of the heart and difficulty breathing may also occur.

Liver cirrhosis

Disease in the liver generates fluid retention in the abdomen, called ascites, and also edema in the declining areas. according to article published in An international journal of medicine, it is the most common complication of cirrhosis, affecting up to 50% of diagnosed patients.

Nephrotic syndrome and other forms of kidney disease

In situations such as nephrotic syndrome or kidney disorders, water retention and protein loss in the blood. Arterial hypertension and edema in declining body regions are also highlighted. In the morning, the edema on the eyelids is more noticeable. The body retains fluids in a general way.


During pregnancy, changes occur in the body at the vascular level, as blood volume increases, blood pressure decreases, among other situations whose purpose is to promote the growth of the fetus.

This cardiovascular adaptation usually causes edema to occur, but these do not signify an abnormality or disease. Anyway, you have to pay attention presence of breathing difficultieshigh blood pressure, cough or fever, as they could indicate a complication.

Venous or lymphatic obstruction

The edema that occurs in these cases may be limited to one extremity or one area of ​​the body, as the circulatory disturbance is localized. So let’s say it’s a focal water retention. The most common examples are as follows:

  • Chronic venous insufficiency.
  • Deep vein thrombosis (clot obstruction).
  • Chronic lymphangitis (inflammation of the lymphatic ducts).
  • Regional lymph node resection.

Standing or sitting for a long time

The body also retains fluids such as result of gravityespecially when sitting or standing for an extended period. In these cases, It is common to notice swollen legs and feet, especially in the afternoon.

It is not a serious cause and can be improved with measures such as stretching exercises, adequate water consumption and a good diet. In general, we should avoid excessive intake of sodium and processed products.

Standing or sitting for a long time
Spending a lot of time in the same position, standing or sitting, affects the appearance of edema, especially in the legs and feet.

How to know if the body retains fluids?

The alteration of the balance of body fluids brings with it various consequences. Whether or not they are serious depends on their cause. Anyway, it is best to consult a doctor to rule out complications or risks. The most common symptoms are as follows:

  • Weight gain.
  • By applying pressure to an area of ​​skin with water retention, for at least five seconds, a depression occurs, which persists after it is withdrawn. This is called fovea edema and can last a few minutes until it goes away.
  • Difficulty removing rings or putting on shoes especially in the afternoon.
  • Swelling on the face, more marked on the eyelids.
  • Edema in areas of decline. On the legs, standing; or, in the lumbar area if you’re lying down.
  • Tight or shiny skin.
  • Difficulty breathing or walking.

What to do if the body retains fluids?

Symptoms of water retention may go away on their own in mild cases. However, if they occur recurrently or severely, it is best to see a doctor. It should not be ignored that many diseases can bring this problem among their symptoms.

Also, even if these are mild cases, lifestyle changes need to be made to prevent recurrence. Improving your diet and starting moderate physical exercise will be decisive in coping with this situation. Similarly, in some cases the administration of diuretics and other medical treatments is required.

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