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Water Retention & Smoking

author image Melissa McNamara
Melissa McNamara is a certified personal trainer who holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and communication studies from the University of Iowa. She writes for various health and fitness publications while working toward a Bachelor of Science in nursing.
Water Retention & Smoking
A man smoking a cigarette. Photo Credit: Yasin Emir Akbas/iStock/Getty Images

Water retention, also known as edema, occurs when an excess amount of fluid is trapped in your body’s tissue. Smoking is not a direct cause of edema; however, medical conditions that cause fluid retention can be directly related to smoking.

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The symptoms of edema are most commonly noticed in the body’s extremities, including the legs, feet, ankles, hands and arms; however, the abdominal region is also a common location. The skin will have a swollen, puffy appearance. According to, if a dimple keeps its shape after being pressed for several seconds, this is also a symptom of edema.


Increased pressure or trauma to capillaries can cause leakage in your body and once this leakage reaches tissue, swelling becomes present. According to, capillary leakage causes your kidneys to compensate for the leakage by retaining more sodium and water, which increases fluid in the body. Standing or sitting for long periods of time, high sodium diets and pregnancy can also cause edema. Severe chronic lung disease, which is caused by smoking in the majority of cases, causes edema because of increased capillary pressure from the heart to lungs, according to Aetna InteliHealth. Additional causes of edema are congestive heart failure and kidney disease. According to the American Heart Association, heart failure affects the kidney's ability to dispose of sodium and water.


Treatment will depend on the severity and type of edema you experience. In mild-temporary cases of sitting or standing too long, walking around can improve the swelling. Lying with your legs elevated above your heart can also reduce swelling in the legs, ankles and feet. If you are pregnant, avoid lying on your back while elevating your legs, according to Aetna InteliHealth. Sometimes surgery is necessary or a low-dose water pill prescribed by your doctor.


To prevent edema, lower your intake of sodium in your diet. High sodium intake can lead to kidney damage, which can cause the body to retain sodium that would normally be eliminated. If you are a smoker, quit smoking. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 90 percent of deaths from chronic lung disease are caused by smoking. Smoking also increases your risk of heart failure and kidney damage. All these problems directly tie to edema or can lead to edema by domino effect.


According to, edema in the lungs can be dangerous, so if you have symptoms such as shortness of breath, difficulty breathing or chest pain, seek immediate medical assistance. If swelling from retained fluids is painful or interfering with your daily living, contact your doctor for assistance.

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