If you suffer from water retention you could have several possible symptoms. Water retention symptoms vary from one person to the next. Some of the classic symptoms include

  • A swollen, bloated tummy
  • Breast tenderness (women)
  • Swollen legs, feet or ankles
  • Exercise and low calorie diet doesn’t help you lose weight
  • Getting up at night to urinate
  • Waking up in the morning with a swollen face

Two legs with elastic stockings and slippers on a carpet.You might just have one of these symptoms, or you might have all of them.

One very sure symptom of water retention is when your body weight fluctuates a lot within a very short time. Try weighing yourself a couple of times a day, every day for two weeks. If the readings fluctuate a lot, for instance if you weigh several pounds less on Tuesday than you did on Monday, you could have water retention. Only water can cause such rapid changes in your weight.

A classic test for water retention which doctors carry out is to press a finger into your shin-bone. If it leaves a dent, this is a definite water retention symptom.

Of all symptoms, the one most difficult to spot is weight gain. There is plenty of capacity for your body to retain water all over, and gradually expand, making you look fat. This type of fat has a puffy appearance, while real fat hangs and sags, and can actually be ‘pinched by the inch’.  For instance, love handles are real fat.

pamela-2005-082-300x224Sometimes water leaks out of the small blood vessels in your tummy and collects inside, where it swishes around. This is another type of water retention, although it is not common and mostly occurs in alcoholics.

For more information try visiting our home page.

Not sure whether you have water retention? Upload a photo and tell us a little about your condition.

Upload your water retention photo

About Linda Lazarides

Linda Lazarides is an international expert on water retention, author of eight books and founder of the British Association for Nutritional Therapy. She has successfully treated hundreds of people referred to her by doctors. See success stories or download E-guide.


  1. I can remember in my 20’s I would gain 7lbs in the course of a day; my stomach would be like a ball. I have brittle asthma and have high dose inhaled steroid medication, but in 2004 I was on 60mg/day oral steroid for 5/6 months and developed Cushingoid symptoms. Since then I have struggled to lose the 15kg I gained. I eat mainly fish, vegetables, very lean meats, very limited dairy(semi skimmed milk) some Wholemeal bread, at least 3 litres water/day. I was in the gym 4 days/week, 4 hours/day with a trainer, but following a laminectomy in 2010 I have not returned. This gym work sadly resulted in not one pound of weight loss. However, lying flat on my back for 8 weeks after the operation resulted in a 5kg weight loss. I cannot lose weight no matter what I try, and doctors refuse to consider that my problems may be metabolic dysfunction due to long term high dose oral steroid. I am currently losing inches from everywhere but my belly; my weight goes up within half a hour of rising, whether I eat and drink or not. (I have tried my weight after eating breakfast, not eating breakfast, only drinking water, not drinking at all) nothing changes the dramatic weight gain, as much as 3lbs in an hour. Is my problem water retention, or something else?

    • Linda Lazarides says:

      Lindsey, this is a very complex health history. It is always frustrating when doctors cannot help but the reason is sadly that their knowledge is a lot more limited than we may believe. Keep searching for the answer. I don’t know whether this is water retention, but if you think it might be then I do hope my book will help.

  2. astrid cohen says:

    47 year old daughter on Abilify for 3 years started showing signs of water retention in arms and hands. Stays on a 12,000 calorie diet in order not to gain more weight having gained 30 pounds. Her pschopharmacologist lowered her dose of Abilify but after a week the edema remains.

  3. I been have fluid problem for a long time in my life I.m taking hydrocclorothiazide 25mg, My Dr have me on high blood pressure with fluid table, but i gain 6 pounds, but i told my Dr to give me my blood pressure and fluid table separated , so i did dropped a few pounds, but every now and then i do hear fluid on the top of my stomach, i told my Dr about, only thing he told you don’t suppose to hear that and he touch my legs and that was hit, but i do drinks a lot of water sometime trying to flush the fluid. My stomach is big on top but extremely big, sometime i can hear like it bubble. .

  4. I have two fingers that are so swollen they kill me my thumb and pinky on my right hand. It hurts so bad to bend them. They feel soft an mushy at times then other they feel hard. I am right handed and it makes it hard for me to do anything. I had a bone infection in my right foot months ago and the hospital didnt take care of it correctly the first time I went in the second time I demanded something be done they put me on antibotics (iv) and on pills for 5 1/2 month. Can you please help me and let me know what I can do.

    • Linda Lazarides says:

      Lydia, it is not normal to get bone infections, especially something so severe. Have you read the nutrition advice on this website? All kinds of health problems can happen from not eating right. If your doctor does not know why your fingers are swollen, be sure to keep massaging them very firmly several times a day. This should help.

  5. I am 52 yrs old. I was divorced 10 yrs ago which seemed to help in a health spiral down. I got high bp, water retention, anxiety etc. I never had a problem other than musculoskeletal deterioration disease which is congenital. I now also have very low potassium levels as well. I stay away from salt, no canned foods unless salt free or low sodium. However at times I like to eat w my daughter and grand kids as a treat. We had pizza last night , by this morning I could not even open my eyes, had heart palpitations and gained 15 lb in ONE NIGHT!! I have had several spinal surgeries also injections due to torn minis us in knees, 1 inch of osteoarthritis plus part of my collarbone removed due to this terrible arthritic cond. help I am feeling exhausted. I am 5’4″ normal wt 155 at this time. At time of divorce I was 140. Could stress have caused all of this? I know the low potassium will be normal for my disease but the water retention, high bp, which bp is controlled but dr won’t remove the meds. What do I do about the water retention. I am a healthy eater. Felt like my head would burst today and very dizzy and anxious due to so much bloating all over my body especially fav

    • Linda Lazarides says:

      Dana, stress makes people eat junk food, so they are more prone to get deficiencies and imbalances which interfere with their metabolism.

  6. Hi Linda, my GP is not taking my symptoms seriously. I’ve reduced my salt intake, drink plenty of water, increased my protein intake. Nothing is helping me lose the sudden 8lbs i gained in under 2 weeks. The swelling is mainly in my lower abdomen on height of my hip bones. My whole stomach feels swollen, puffed out. I also have noticed some in my thighs. Reading your site I suppose it could be digestion/intestine related. I have been constipated recently but that seems to be ok again now apart from the gas. Do you recommend your waterfall diet book for me and/or should I push my gp to take my water weight gain seriously?

    • Linda Lazarides says:

      Megan, it’s not about taking it seriously. GPs don’t have any effective treatments for idiopathic oedema. Hoping my book helps you. Wishing you well.

  7. Im 44 and I have been suffering with swelling in ankles for the past year they look like a half of an apple collarbone is swollen as well as armpits fingers hands behind my neck and below my eyes are really bad as well. My doctor sent me for a ct scan and it did show that my lymph nodes are swollen I have to make an appointment in a couple of weeks for a follow up to see if there is a change. I do have thyroid condition ic and fibromyalgia and reflex sympathetic dystrophy I have no appetite at all weak all the time Im very concerned that it could be Hodgkin disease or some other illness My question is could it be just water retention

    • Linda Lazarides says:

      Tracy, your water retention is being caused by the blockage in your lymph nodes. Hopefully your doctors will be able to tell you what is causing this. It is not simple water retention. My best advice is to look at the healthy eating advice on this site. So many health problems start when the body is weakened by poor food choices such as consuming too much sugary food and drink.

      • Janice Campbell says:

        My name is Janice it has been almost 4 yrs I gain 66 pounds of fluid no one knew me and it was scary waking up every day not knowing yourself in the mirror they thought I have Cushing disease but they really haven’t done all the rest I have lost 55lbs the most I have lost every time I lose it comes back I have gain 8pounds back my stomach looks like I am going to have a baby I can’t eat during the day I take 40mg of lasix and 100mg aladatone if I go anywhere I can’t take my fluid med and can’t eat till we start home i have constant diaherra I don’t have to eat to have it my stomach is extended from colitis is inflamed I have took meds for it for 3 years I am 42 now I have to take almost 20 kinds of meds some only if needed I take mostly stomach med and my face and neck is swollen to I have a goiter with enlarged lymph node if u no anything to help me please help I had back surgery on top of all this I have sjdrome disease to,and antibodies of lupus my inflammation level was so high the sent me to a cancer center said it wasn’t cancer thank God please help me I lost my grandmother not too long after I got sick it has been almost 3years then dec 2013 I left my house and stayed with my mom she had copd and sleep anepna I do to put I love a yr I though she would be ok but I never left her but to to my Dr app she was bed fast she went places and stuff but I done CPR on her even thou I knew she didn’t want it but I loved her and my grandmother so much I watch them both die my grand mother raised me and see my brother dead in the road I am not wanting petty I just need help no dr understands I worked in pharmacy for 14Yr I work for home health too but not able to,work just enough to keep my licence I want to work but I am so sick to my stomach it really feels like I am prengant the baby will be 4 years old its not funny not I just need someone to help me find out what this is thank you

        • Linda Lazarides says:

          Janice I really sympathise with you, this is a very distressing problem. I can’t solve it for you in a forum post as I have never met you but I’ve written a book called the Waterfall Diet which helps people find out how they might have developed their water retention. The diet itself is a test which lasts a few weeks, and after the test you will know whether you are eating something that is making you ill.

  8. Theresa Holton says:

    I’m in a wheelchair. Have been since 1996. Lately my buttocks feels like I have a extra one. Also the back of my thigh. Everything is on the same side. My legs and feed always swell. They have been doing this go years. I thought maybe I was gaining weight buy in just those spots sometimes the one on my leg goes away but later it’s back.

  9. Hello, I was directed to your website because I am seeking a reason of why I suddenly, without warning swelled in my ankles and calves. I have never swelled before, I am 44 and am of average health. I have hyperthyoidism, and prediabetes, altho I am no longer over weight. I exercise daily, and eat semi okay. I am really scared, I will be contacting my regular MD tomorrow. All I have is the swelling, and some slight burning and tightness on my calves. However while writing this I am experiencing some mild pain in my right calf, which is more swollen than the left side. It come on suddenly a couple hours ago and there is no injury, it happened while I was at rest.. I know that there is always a first time for everything, and I shouldnt freak myself out, but I am really scared… TY

  10. I had a mastectomy 3 years ago, I gained 9 lbs. in a week. The doctor assured me it would go away. I have tried being careful of what I eat and exercise. It’s been 3!!! years and I have lost some weight, but I can actually hear myself sloshing. I can gain pounds over night. Is this a normal reaction.

    • Linda Lazarides says:

      Kelly, of course water retention is not normal, and you are right to be concerned. Simply having a mastectomy should not cause water retention, so you will need to follow some of the guidance given in this site and in my books to investigate the possible reasons why you are retaining water now.

  11. Mo Dolaghan says:

    I have been given anti acid pills for years by my doc and never has he sent me to the hospital for tests/ I have disc probs in my spine. When i walk out in the morn I feel as if my ribs are been filled up with fluid. I have to stop walking as it becomes sore to do so. Then ? for the whole day I can walk at high speed without any problem. My heart has been checked out and their is nothing wrong. The top of my tummy feels like water moving around ?

  12. I have water retention on my stomach, face, arms, legs etc…on my stomach, if i press it quickly, you can see its extremely wobbly and when lying down, falls to one side. Only after drinking alcohol does it come off, i urinate up to 15 or more times in a night, probably a lot more. It all comes off of that area. I can lose more than 7lbs of fluid in one night. I think food causes this issue as well but doctors will not listen, they blame it on my previous weight loss(loose skin) but i lost it slowly and it doesnt stay watery like that all the time. I have Lupus as well, which can involve the kidneys but the doctors screw their faces up everytime i mention it and say they’ve never heard of that issue with fluid on the stomach. It is extremely noticeable when it is there and the difference when it isn’t is amazing. I had this BEFORE my weight loss as well. What do i do? I’m 26 and i cannot get any help with this. There are days when i drink nothing and pee constantly, as if i’ve drunk loads of water so i KNOW there is a problem but doctors are very dismissive…

    • Linda Lazarides says:

      Jess, alcohol is a natural diuretic and works in a similar way to taking water pills. Please don’t try to use it to lose your water retention, as this can eventually make you very ill. Doctors become dismissive when they have no answers. I would recommend that you start with the advice on this website, and if you get stuck working on your own, let me know and I will find you a naturopath trained in my methods who can work with you on both your water retention and lupus.

  13. Melissa says:

    Can you have pain when you have water retention

  14. Melissa says:

    Do you have pain when you retain water

    • Linda Lazarides says:

      Melissa, when water retention arises from inflammation then yes, if you press the swelling it will feel sore. Swellings also increase pressure and if the pressure is on a sensitive part of the body then this may feel tender.

  15. My name is briana I am twenty five years old and I have water retaining on my left ankle for over a year and now for about two weeks it has been in my calf as well it hurts really bad when I’m on my feet for a long period of time. I’m 5’2″ and weigh 175 pounds yes I have gained some weight. I am now starting to change my diet to staŕt loosing weight. Do you think the weight gain is the reason to this it’s only in my left ankle and calf?

    • Linda Lazarides says:

      Briana, this site explains how water retention can lead to weight gain. Unfortunately a low calorie diet will not help you lose water weight. You need a diet which is especially designed for water weight. Keep reading this site.

Ask a question or leave a comment