The symptom of water retention indicates that fluid is pooling in the tissues of the body. Water retention, also called swelling or edema, occurs for several reasons. Anyone with persistent swelling should seek the advice of a licensed medical professional. In some cases, swelling may signal a serious condition that needs immediate treatment.
Sodium helps determine the volume of the blood and regulate blood pressure. When someone eats too much sodium, the excess sodium holds on to water. This causes water retention in the hands and other parts of the body. In order to avoid water retention caused by excessive sodium consumption, you should limit your intake of high-sodium foods. High-sodium items include processed luncheon meats, canned soups, canned vegetables, cheese, potato chips, pretzels and salted nuts.
The kidneys work together with several hormones to regulate the amount of fluid in the body. When the body has too much fluid, the kidneys produce more urine. When the body does not have enough fluid, the kidneys conserve water. Kidney disease and kidney failure result in impaired kidney function. This means the kidneys have difficulty carrying out their functions. This allows excess fluid to build up in the body, causing water retention in the hands, face, ankles, feet and legs.
During pregnancy, the amount of fluid in the body increases to support the developing fetus. As fluid volume increases, swelling occurs. A condition known as preeclampsia also causes water retention during pregnancy. Preeclampsia causes high blood pressure, reduced urine output, nausea, sudden weight gain, severe headaches, abdominal pain and vision changes. Water retention affects the hands and feet.
MayoClinic.com cites water retention as the most common symptom of premenstrual syndrome. Scientists do not know why PMS causes water retention, but hormones seem to affect this condition. Women who experience water retention during PMS should reduce their sodium intake, avoid alcohol and caffeine, get regular exercise and eat a diet rich in fruits, whole grains, nuts, vegetables and seeds.
When the lymphatic system cannot drain fluids properly, the fluid accumulates in other body tissues. This results in swelling and discomfort. The swelling usually affects the legs and arms but can also affect the hands and other parts of the body. Without proper treatment, lymphedema may cause infection and interfere with the proper healing of skin wounds. Causes of lymphedema include trauma, lymphangioma, hemangioma and surgery for breast, testicular and colon cancer.
When an injury occurs, the body sends oxygen and other nutrients to the site of the injury. This starts the healing process and ensures proper recovery. Fluid also accumulates in the tissues around the injury, causing swelling and discomfort.