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Fluid Retention

Fluid retention is also known as edema. This occurs when water is held in the tissues. The lymphatic system normally processes fluid in the cells and sends it back to the bloodstream, but when the lymph system is not properly removing the fluid, the tissues hold onto it, causing edema. Swelling is most common in the legs and feet, but it can also appear in the hands, arms, and the abdomen and around the lungs.


Symptoms of fluid retention may be a sudden weight gain of several pounds or swollen ankles. In worse cases, you may feel like your skin is too tight. Symptoms will vary according to the affected area.


Fluid retention can be caused by eating too much salt or drinking too much alcohol. Both of these things cause the body to hang on to fluid. Remaining inactive for long periods of time can cause fluid to pool in the tissues. Activity will help get the fluid moving again. Many women also experience swelling before their period due to hormone fluctuations. They can also experience fluid retention due to oral contraceptives.


Seek medical attention if swelling in the extremities or abdomen last for a week and your skin takes a minute or more to recover from the dent made from poking a finger into the swelling. This is called pitting edema. Sometimes, signs of swelling may be a symptom of heart or kidney disease, liver problems, arthritis, thyroid disease, allergic reactions or chronic lung disease. If you are pregnant and experience sudden swelling in your legs, hands and face that is accompanied by high blood pressure, notify your caregiver immediately. These are symptoms of pre-eclampsia. Some swelling of the ankles and feet are normal in late pregnancy, but if you are concerned, seek advice.

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