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Causes of Water Retention in Feet

Doctors refer to the accumulation of fluid in the body tissues and cavities as water retention. When excess water accumulates in the feet, the feet swell and cause discomfort. Water retention in the feet occurs as a complication of several medical conditions. If you experience water retention that does not go away, consult a doctor to determine the cause.

Pulmonary Hypertension

The lungs contain veins and arteries that carry blood to and away from the heart, respectively. In pulmonary venous hypertension, the veins dilate and cause increased pressure. This usually occurs as the result of a problem with the left heart, according to David S. Feigin, M.D. of Johns Hopkins University. This condition causes excess fluid to build up in the blood vessels, which leads to water retention in the feet, ankles and legs.


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Heart muscle disease, referred to as cardiomyopathy, weakens the heart and makes it difficult for the organ to pump blood. Blood pools in the veins as they carry it to the heart for distribution to other body tissues. This results in fluid accumulation in the feet and lower extremities.

Kidney Failure

The kidneys regulate the amount of sodium and fluid in the body. When they work properly, the kidneys respond to excess fluid by eliminating it in the urine. In cases of acute or chronic kidney failure, the kidneys do not maintain normal fluid levels. This results in water retention by the feet, legs, eyelids, ankles and hands. The American Heart Association recommends eating less than 1,500 mg of sodium per day to reduce the risk of diseases associated with sodium consumption.

Chronic Kidney Disease

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The kidneys contain filtration units known as nephrons, which reabsorb sodium and water for use by the body. Chronic kidney disease makes it difficult for the kidneys to filter wastes properly. This leads to the leakage of protein in the urine and the accumulation of excess fluid in the body. The excess fluid pools in the legs, feet, hands, face and ankles, resulting in swelling and discomfort.

Congestive Heart Failure

Congestive heart failure is the inability of the heart to pump blood efficiently. Causes of this condition include high blood pressure and narrowing of the arteries in the heart. Congestive heart failure causes fluid to pool in the feet, ankles and legs.


Pregnant women often experience swelling of the feet. This occurs due to the increased fluid volume of the body during pregnancy. A serious condition known as preeclampsia may also cause swollen feet during pregnancy. The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development defines preeclampsia as an abnormal elevation of blood pressure after a woman’s 20th week of pregnancy.