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What Are the Symptoms of Water Retention?

author image Melodie Anne
Melodie Anne Coffman specializes in overall wellness, with particular interests in women's health and personal defense. She holds a master's degree in food science and human nutrition and is a certified instructor through the NRA. Coffman is pursuing her personal trainer certification in 2015.
What Are the Symptoms of Water Retention?
Your clothes might feel tight if you're retaining water. Photo Credit greg801/iStock/Getty Images

Occasionally retaining water isn’t generally a big concern. Your body should recover if the water retention stems from eating a salty meal, for example. But if you continuously have symptoms of water retention, medically called edema, you’ll want to see your physician for a thorough exam. In severe cases, retaining water can be a warning sign of heart or kidney failure.

Weight Gain

A rapid increase in weight is often one of the initial signs of retaining water. You probably didn’t gain several pounds of fat overnight, rather that number on the scale goes up because of all the extra water in your body. This effect can cause you to feel puffy, making your pants, socks and even shoes, feel a bit snug.

Joint Swelling and Muscle Pain

With the sudden influx in weight associated with water retention, your joints may become instantly stressed. Plus, all that fluid buildup can impact your muscle functions, leading to pain and weakness all over your body. You might feel generally achy, find it difficult to walk, have tender spots on your limbs and have very stiff joints throughout your body.

Increased Pulse

As your body retains water and your arms and legs swell up, it makes it that much more difficult for blood to circulate. Your heart has to pump a bit harder and faster so blood can reach your limbs. This is why you might feel your heart pounding, like it is going to jump out of your chest, and why your pulse rate goes up. Over time, the extra wear on your heart could lead to long-term heart and vessel damage.

Skin Abnormalities

Because blood flow is affected, you might notice some skin discoloration. You could become flushed in certain areas that have increased blood flow, or have some abnormal pale spots in areas where blood flow isn’t as strong. Sometimes your skin may hold an indentation or pit when you press on it as well. Or you could have the opposite effect and your skin is so swollen, it doesn’t budge when you touch it.

Difficulty Breathing

Since edema causes general swelling of tissues and doesn’t specifically target any area, even the tissues in your lungs can become affected. Your lungs could swell up with the extra fluid, making it difficult for you to breath. Having a hoarse sounding voice, wheezing when you breath and coughing, are some of the signs that you’re most likely retaining water around your lungs.

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