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5 Signs Swelling and Water Retention Are Signaling Something More Serious


On occasion, your body might change and swell due to various external or internal factors. Since the body is made up of 70 percent water, it’s common for changes in the body to affect the presence of water on both the inside and outside of cells.

It’s important to recognize when this change is expected due to a temporary condition or when it stems from something more serious. Since water retention can be accompanied by joint stiffness and skin discoloration, you’ll likely want to figure out the root cause of this discomfort as soon as possible. Here are five warning signs your swelling and water retention are signaling something more serious.

Heart issues
You may be tempted initially to dismiss the array of problems that comes with fluid retention as having little to do with your heart. However, they all signal fluid retention, which can mean trouble for people with a history of heart failure. If the heart starts to fail, there will be a change in blood pressure, which often results in serious water retention. Typically the legs, feet, and ankles will swell and fluid will also build up in the lungs.

Kidney problems
Water retention can signal issues with your renal system. Waste, fluids, and other substances are extracted and cross into tiny tubules in the kidneys. From there, the bloodstream reabsorbs anything the body can reuse, and any waste is excreted in urine. If the blood flow to the kidneys is affected, problems can occur, such as problems with eliminating waste material which leads to water retention.

Capillary issues
Water retention may also indicate a problem with your veins. If the valves inside your veins don’t close the way they should, not all of your blood gets pumped back to your heart, which causes swelling in your lower legs. Water retention is also possible if the capillary walls become too leaky. If something goes wrong with pressure or the wall becomes too leaky, excess liquid will be released into the spaces between cells.

Problems with the lymphatic system
If too much lymph fluid is released into the bloodstream, the lymphatic system can become overwhelmed. It is unable to return fluid fast enough, and this builds up around the tissues. Sometimes, if the lymphatic system is congested, the rate at which fluid is returned to the bloodstream may change. Additionally, a rare condition called Lymphedema can manifest as water retention if lymph nodes are damaged or removed during cancer treatment.

Cirrhosis is scarring of the liver from various causes, which can obstruct blood flow through the liver. Cirrhosis might be a factor in developing pronounced swelling or retention in the abdomen or in the lower legs.