What Are the Dangers of Excess Water Retention?

Water retention occurs when fluid builds up in the body. In most cases, fluid retention does not cause serious problems. But sometimes, fluid retention causes dangerous effects on the body. Conditions that cause fluid retention include heart failure, cirrhosis of the liver, kidney failure, premenstrual syndrome and preeclampsia. Discuss water retention with a physician if you are concerned about the dangers of this symptom.

Difficulty Breathing

Two types of water retention cause difficulty breathing. In cases of pulmonary edema, fluid builds up in the lungs. This makes it difficult to breathe and raises the pressure in the pulmonary artery. Prolonged pulmonary edema increases the risk for heart failure. Ascites, or water retention in the abdomen, causes the abdomen to swell. This causes fluid to put pressure on the lungs, making it difficult to breathe properly. Doctors refer to shortness of breath as dyspnea, according to Medline Plus. When fluid builds up in the lungs or abdomen, it causes this sensation. If dyspnea occurs suddenly or becomes more severe, seek medical attention. The doctor will perform tests to determine the cause of the shortness of breath.

Skin Wounds

The location of water retention determines the complications that occur. One of the dangers of water retention in the feet and ankles is skin wounds caused by friction from footwear. When footwear rubs against the skin, it causes blisters and cuts. In people with an increased risk for pressure sores, such as elderly people, these blisters may worsen. In the most severe cases, these wounds develop into foot ulcers. The American Diabetes Association recommends staying off of your feet if you develop one of these ulcers.

Chest Pain

When fluid accumulates in the abdomen or lungs, the pressure causes chest pain and discomfort.The University of Illinois Medical Center at Chicago explains that this type of water retention occurs in cases of liver disease, heart failure, heart infection and kidney disease. Some medications also cause water retention as a side effect. These medications include steroids, birth control pills, blood pressure drugs and antidepressants, according to MedlinePlus, a publication of the National Institutes of Health.

Low Sodium Levels

Sodium and water have a close relationship in the human body. Too much water dilutes the amount of sodium in the blood, resulting in low sodium levels. This condition causes fatigue, headaches, muscle weakness, nausea, irritability, restlessness and vomiting. In serious cases, low sodium levels cause confusion, hallucinations, convulsions and loss of consciousness, according to MedlinePlus.