Medications That Could Cause Water Retention

Water retention signifies the accumulation of excess fluid in the body cavities and tissues. This is not a medical condition, but a symptom of an underlying medical problem. In some cases, water retention occurs as the result of medication use. Seek medical advice for water retention that does not improve on its own.


Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs reduce inflammation associated with injuries and musculoskeletal disorders. Some common NSAIDs include aspirin, naproxen and ibuprofen. These drugs cause fluid retention and swelling, increasing the risk for congestive heart failure in some patients. Those who have fluid retention or existing heart failure should use these drugs with caution.


Corticosteroids reduce the joint pain and swelling associated with arthritis and other musculoskeletal disorders. Water retention is a side effect of corticosteroids and may lead to water weight gain. As corticosteroid use continues, the drugs can increase the amount of fat on the body, leading to actual weight gain. Examples of corticosteroids include methylprednisone, prednisone and cortisone.

Birth Control Pills

Birth control pills, also known as oral contraceptives, contain estrogen and other hormones that cause fluid retention and swelling. Dr. Frederick Jelovsek, a professor in the James H. Quillen College of Medicine, explains that estrogen causes water retention when administered in high doses. This occurs because estrogen stimulates renin-angiotensin, a substance produced by the kidney. Renin-angiotensin signals the kidneys to eliminate less fluid, resulting in an accumulation of the excess.


Thiazolidinedione drugs help the body use insulin more effectively. This combats the effects of type 2 diabetes in humans. This drug class often causes water retention and swelling, but Dr. Norman K. Hollenberg of Brigham and Women’s Hospital explains that severe edema is a rare side effect of these drugs. Hollenberg recommends that physicians reduce the dosage of thiazolidinediones for those who experience water retention. Examples of thiazolidinedione drugs include rosiglitazone and pioglitazone.

Blood Pressure Drugs

Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, makes the heart work harder to pump blood 3. This damages the blood vessels and increases the risk for serious complications. Some people require medication to manage their blood pressure 3. Doctors treat high blood pressure with beta-blockers, angiotensin receptor blockers, diuretics, calcium channel blockers, vasodilators and ACE inhibitors. Anytime the blood pressure decreases, the kidneys release an enzyme called renin. Renin splits angiotensin into two substances known as angiotensin I and angiotensin II. Angiotensin II signals the adrenal glands to release a hormone called aldosterone. Aldosterone signals the kidneys to excrete potassium and retain sodium. The sodium causes water retention and increased blood volume.