3 ways to tell if you're retaining water

3 ways to tell if you're retaining water
3 ways to tell if you're retaining water

Water retention or edema occurs when your body begins to build up excess fluid in the tissues. Your tissues regularly fill with fluids that come from your bloodstream. Under normal conditions, a network of tubes called the lymphatic system will drain excess fluid into the bloodstream. These fluids can start to build up in your system when it is under pressure from many factors including excessive salt intake, heat, obesity, normal hormonal fluctuations in the menstrual cycle, or serious illness. You should carefully assess the symptoms to determine if any of these factors may be causing your fluid retention.


Method 1 of 3: Estimate possible weight gain

Tell if You Have Water Retention Step 1

Step 1. Weigh yourself

Did you suddenly gain a certain amount of weight, for example 2 kg in one day? While excessive food intake or lack of exercise can also produce this kind of weight gain, several kilograms overnight is a sure sign of water retention.

  • Check your weight at different times of the day by recording it over several days. If your weight fluctuates significantly over a day or two, those fluctuations are likely the result of water retention rather than weight gain.
  • Remember that in women, hormonal changes due to the menstrual cycle can have a significant impact on water retention. If your waist swelled a few days before your period, it's a safe bet that this swelling will go away a day or two after your period starts. Observe your height again near the end of your period.
Tell if You Have Water Retention Step 2

Step 2. Examine the physical pattern of the observed weight gain

If you are generally a thin person, can you see less of the shape of your muscles? It is also a sign of water retention.

Tell if You Have Water Retention Step 3

Step 3. Watch your diet

Consider following a smart diet if you are still having questions about your weight gain. Remember that it takes time to lose weight, sometimes it can be done over several weeks. By reducing your calorie intake and exercising more, you should see some weight loss. If you don't see any results, water retention is the culprit.

Method 2 of 3: Observe the swelling in the limbs

Tell if You Have Water Retention Step 4

Step 1. Take a detailed review of your limbs

Examine your hands, legs, ankles, and feet for signs of swelling. The ends of your circulatory system are also the ends of your lymphatic system. Thus, these are the areas where you are most likely to suffer from water retention.

Tell if You Have Water Retention Step 5

Step 2. Check if your bushings are tighter than usual

If they look narrower all at once, that's a sign of swelling in the hands. Watches and bracelets might give similar clues, but swelling of the fingers is an especially common sign of water retention.

Tell if You Have Water Retention Step 6

Step 3. Observe your ankles to see if your socks are leaving a mark on them

Sometimes this is caused by an elastic that is too tight rather than a physical factor, but if your socks leave marks around your ankle when they weren't, it might be because your legs or ankles are swollen.

Shoes that are suddenly too tight are also a strong indicator of swelling in the legs or ankles

Tell if You Have Water Retention Step 7

Step 4. Press down on the swollen areas with your thumb and release

If the mark remains for a few seconds, you may have edema, one of the types of water retention.

Be aware that there is also a form of edema that will not cause this kind of result. You could very well be suffering from water retention without your fingerprints remaining on your skin

Tell if You Have Water Retention Step 8

Step 5. Look at yourself in the mirror and ask yourself if your face has swollen

Swelling of the face or skin that looks tight or shiny could also be a sign of water retention. Bags under the eyes are a very common symptom.

Tell if You Have Water Retention Step 9

Step 6. Ask yourself if your joints are hurting

Focus on the areas where you see swelling. Stiff or painful joints, especially in the extremities, are an additional sign of fluid retention.

Method 3 of 3: determine the probable cause

Tell if You Have Water Retention Step 10

Step 1. Observe your surroundings

If it is very hot, water retention can be caused by heat. This is especially true if you have been active outdoors and have not been drinking heavily. Although it may seem like a paradox, you will lose more water if you drink more. High altitude is also a cause of water retention.

Tell if You Have Water Retention Step 11

Step 2. Assess your recent activity level

If you've been standing or sitting in one position for too long, fluids may have collected in your lower limbs. Long airplane flights or sedentary work can cause the body to retain water. Get up and move at least every two hours or do exercises like flexing your toes back or stretching them forward if you find yourself stuck on a long flight.

Tell if You Have Water Retention Step 12

Step 3. Examine Your Diet

Too much sodium often leads to water retention. Obesity can also stress the lymphatic system and lead to water retention, especially in the extremities. Read food labels carefully to find out which ones contain or hide high amounts of sodium.

Tell if You Have Water Retention Step 13

Step 4. Think about your last menstrual cycle

Are you in the middle or near the end of your cycle? If you are a woman, this is one of the most common reasons for water retention.

Tell if You Have Water Retention Step 14

Step 5. Rule out more serious medical problems

Although fluid retention is probably caused by one of the above factors, it can also be a sign of more serious medical problems, including poor functioning of the heart or kidneys, for example congestive heart failure or kidney failure.

If you are pregnant and notice sudden changes in water retention, contact your doctor immediately. Fluid retention can be a sign of preeclampsia, a disorder that poses serious risks to both mother and baby


  • If you show signs of water retention and feel very tired, see your doctor to have your heart checked.
  • If you have signs of water retention and don't pass urine a lot, ask your doctor to check your kidneys.
  • To reduce your water retention, try to eat the freshest foods possible, avoiding frozen or canned foods that are high in sodium.


  • If you are pregnant, always see your doctor if you notice any changes in your water retention.
  • If you have water retention and feel tired or have trouble urinating, see your doctor immediately, you may have heart and kidney problems.
  • Even if you do not have the aggravating symptoms listed in this article, call your doctor if the symptoms of fluid retention persist. You must rule out the possibility of medical problems, including problems with the liver or the lymphatic system.

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