Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

Fluid retention can be seen as swelling.

Fluid retention can be seen as swelling.
beginning of content

Fluid retention

Fluid retention is seen as swelling in one or more parts of the body where fluid gets trapped. It is most common in the ankles and feet. If you have symptoms of fluid retention, it’s a good idea to see a doctor to check the cause and whether any treatment is needed. There are ways you can help yourself.

What is fluid retention?

Fluid retention is also called oedema (or edema in the US) and water retention. It occurs when parts of the body swell due to the build-up of trapped fluid.

You may have fluid retention if you have:

  • swelling or puffiness under the skin
  • skin that looks or feels tight
  • skin that does not bounce back after being pressed for a few seconds
  • a noticeable increase in size of your abdomen.

See your doctor if you have any of these symptoms.

Fluid retention is usually seen as a sign of another problem. But it can also cause pain, damage to the skin and difficulty with walking.

What causes fluid retention?

Some people get fluid retention due to illnesses like:

Certain medications cause fluid retention, such as:

A problem in one part of your arm or leg can cause fluid retention further down your arm or leg, if you have:

  • a problem with your lymphatic system, which drains fluid from tissues
  • a vein condition, such as deep vein thrombosis
  • the build-up of fat, usually in the legs
  • a burn or other type of injury.

You can also get fluid retention if you are pregnant, overweight or malnourished.

Fluid retention treatment

The treatment depends on the cause – talk to your doctor.

Many people will find their problem with fluid improves with more exercise, a healthy diet, less alcohol and less salt.

Some people are prescribed medicines called diuretics to help their body get rid of excess fluid via urine. Some people need to change the medicines they are taking after talking to their doctor.

If the fluid is in just one part of the body, then you might get some relief from:

  • wearing compression stockings
  • massaging the tissue by stroking toward the heart
  • elevate the affected part above your heart when you can
  • exercises as advised by your doctor.

Last reviewed: December 2015

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Found 81 results

Fluid retention (oedema)

Fluid regularly leaks into body tissues from the blood. The lymphatic system is a network of tubes throughout the body that drains this fluid (called lymph) from tissues and empties it back into the bloodstream. Fluid retention (oedema) occurs when the fluid isn’t removed from the tissues.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Burinex | myVMC

Burinex is used to treat oedema (fluid retention), particularly in people with congestive heart failure. It contains bumetanide, a loop diuretic.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Pulmonary oedema | myVMC

Pulmonary oedema is a disease of the lung

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Diabetic Macular Oedema | myVMC

Diabetic macular oedema is a sight-threatening eye condition

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Aprinox | myVMC

Aprinox is used to treat oedema and hypertension. It contains bendrofluazide, a thiazide diuretic that acts on the kidney's tubules.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Angioedema | myVMC

Angioedema refers to rapid fluid accumulation causing swelling (oedema) of the skin and tissues. It can lead to airway obstruction and suffocation.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Ischaemic Maculopathy | myVMC

Ischaemic maculopathy is one of a group of eye diseases which affect diabetics

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Drink water instead | Kidney Health Australia

To satisfy thirst, drink water The human body can last weeks without food but only days without fluid. Water is the recommended fluid to satisfy thirst and it is nature's choice. Choosing water as your preferred drink will have a positive imp

Read more on Kidney Health Australia website

Dealing with cramps, swelling and varicose veins

Cramps, swelling and varicose veins are some of the most well known issues women experience during pregnancy. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, doing regular exercise and getting plenty of rest should help to alleviate the symptoms.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Common discomforts during pregnancy

Your body has a great deal to do during pregnancy. Sometimes the changes taking place will cause irritation or discomfort, and on occasions they may seem quite alarming.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice and information you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo
Feedback