What Are the Causes of Water Retention in Men?

Water retention, otherwise known as edema or dropsy, has a wide range of possible causes in men, from the most benign to life-threatening conditions. Fluid retention most often affects the legs, ankles and feet, and also the face and hands, explains the University of Maryland Medical Center. Water is retained in the body's tissue, and it is not itself a disease, but simply a symptom. Chronic, severe or widespread water retention calls for a checkup with your doctor.

Minor Causes

Water retention in men is often a fleeting result of a fairly insignificant cause. Sometimes, gravity is to blame. If you stand or sit in the same position too long, gravity pulls fluids down, sometimes causing them to pool in the lower limbs, explains the Cleveland Clinic. High altitude and a hot atmospheric temperature are other causes, particularly when you've engaged in strenuous activity, notes UMMC. Consuming too much sodium is another common cause, along with sunburn and allergic reactions to foods or insect bites or stings.


Certain medications cause water retention as a side effect. The Mayo Clinic's website outlines some of the more common examples. Drugs that expand blood vessels, such as vasodilators and calcium channel blockers, are known to cause edema. The same is true of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, better known as NSAIDs, thiazolidinediones for diabetes, and medications that help regulate hormone levels.

Health Conditions

Edema can appear in men as a symptom of serious health conditions. Infection or injury to blood vessels or blood clots can cause water retention, as can blocked lymph channels, a condition known as lymphedema, according to UMMC. Weakened valves in veins, a condition called venous insufficiency, can interfere with circulation and lead to fluid retention as well, notes the Cleveland Clinic. Cirrhosis of the liver is another possible cause, according to the National Institutes of Health. In addition, kidney damage or disease or congestive heart failure can cause fluid retention, according to the Mayo Clinic. Head injuries and brain tumors are also known to cause edema, adds UMMC.

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