Medically known as edema, water retention occurs due to buildup of water in the tissues of your body. Some common causes of water retention include sitting or standing for a long time, eating salty foods, allergies, insect bites, infection, hormonal changes during menstruation and pregnancy, high or low blood pressure and as a side effect to some medications. However, serious medical conditions such as congestive heart failure, liver cirrhosis, kidney damage, damaged veins and an inadequate lymphatic system may also lead to accumulation of water in the tissues. Some common signs will help you determine if you are retaining water.
Look for signs of swollen ankles, feet and legs, especially at the end of a long day spent standing or sitting. Gravity tends to pull water to the lower extremities, causing them to become bigger than normal due to edema. Also, look for puffiness of your arms, hands, face and around your eyes, as these are also signs of water retention.
Observe if skin appears stretched and shiny as it covers the swollen area that is larger than normal due to water retention.
Weigh yourself if you feel you have gained weight over a couple of days or weeks, as retained water leads to rapid gain in weight.
Take into account the feeling of abdominal heaviness or an increase in your waistline, especially a week or two before the start of your menstrual period. Water retention due to hormonal changes may cause abdominal bloating. A quick indication is if your clothes feel tighter than normal.
Gently press the swollen area with your finger for about five seconds. An indent that remains after removal of pressure indicates water retention.
See your physician immediately if you experience chest pain, shortness of breath or difficulty in breathing as these are also symptoms of water retention.