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Fluid Retention -Procedures, Side effects, Recovery time, Costs and alternatives

Last Updated: Jul 05, 2024

What is Fluid Retention?

Fluid retention in the body is known by many names. It can be referred to as dropsy which is an ‎old fashioned name for fluid retention. The medical term for fluid retention is oedema. Fluid ‎leaks continuously from the blood into the body tissues. A network of tubes commonly referred ‎to as the lymphatic system is responsible for draining out the fluid from the tissues. When the ‎fluid does not get removed from the tissues the problem of fluid retention is experienced. This ‎accumulation of the fluid in the tissues results in swollen tissues. Fluid retention can be classified ‎into two categories first is generalized oedema in which there is swelling throughout the body ‎and the other is localized oedema. In localized oedema, only specific parts of the body are ‎swollen. The other types of oedema are pulmonary oedema which affects the lungs, macular ‎oedema which affects the eyes, and cerebral oedema which affects the brain. When a doctor is ‎not able to find any cause of oedema then that condition is referred to as idiopathic oedema.‎

The conditions that may cause fluid retention in a patient are given below

  • During the summers the body is usually less efficient in removing the fluids from the ‎tissues.‎
  • Burn injuries can lead to retention of fluid.‎
  • When a patient stands for a very long time the fluid gets accumulated in the lower legs of ‎the tissue.‎
  • Fluid retention can be observed in some women two weeks before the menstrual cycle.‎
  • Fluid retention can happen due to dietary deficiencies like vitamin B1 and protein.‎
  • Certain drugs like blood pressure medicines, corticosteroids, and NSAIDs can cause fluid ‎retention.‎
  • The hormones in the pregnancy can lead to retention of fluid.‎
  • Consuming high salt food products can lead to fluid retention.‎

Besides these, fluid retention may be a symptom of other critical medical condition. Some of the ‎medical conditions that may cause fluid retention are kidney disease, chronic liver disease, lung ‎disease, thyroid disease, autoimmune diseases, arthritis, and heart diseases.‎ The treatment for fluid retention depends upon the underlying cause being diagnosed as early as ‎possible. ‎

How is the treatment done?

The problem of fluid retention gets treated automatically if the underlying condition leading to ‎an imbalance of fluid gets treated.‎ For treating the fluid retention in the patients a doctor may recommend some activities to be ‎done by the patients themselves. These activities are

  • A patient is advised to raise their legs for at least three times a day so the circulation in the ‎legs can improve.‎
  • If the doctor suspects that fluid retention is due to standing for long duration then the doctor ‎advises the patient to avoid standing for long periods of time.‎
  • If the weighs more than what their normal weight should be then a doctor may recommend ‎losing weight to those patients.
  • A doctor may advise a patient to include exercises like swimming, cycling, and walking.‎
  • Medications: For treating the problem of retention of fluid in the patients a doctor may prescribe ‎diuretic medicines. The diuretic medicine drains the fluid out of their body by increasing the ‎number of times a patient has to undergo urination.‎

    For treating fluid retention a doctor may advise a patient to consume a diet that is low in salt ‎content. If fluid retention is due to hypothyroidism then treatment of the condition using ‎thyroxine helps in the draining of the fluids from the body. If the fluid retention is due to a ‎patient consuming any medicine the doctor treats this condition by replacing those medicines ‎with the ones that do not cause fluid retention. If fluid retention does not get treated by normal ‎measures in kidney disease then a doctor may order dialysis of the patient. If the cause of fluid ‎retention is chronic liver disease then the doctor may advise a patient to avoid alcohol and reduce ‎the water intake. If the fluid retention is due to malnutrition in the person then a doctor may ‎recommend some dietary supplements. A doctor may advise a patient to wear support stockings ‎for reducing fluid retention as it improves the blood flow in the legs.‎

Who is eligible for the treatment? (When is the treatment done?)

A patient is eligible for the treatment if the following symptoms are exhibited by the patient

  • If the body parts of the patient like ankles, hands, and feet are swollen then that ‎patient is eligible for the treatment.‎
  • The joints of the patient are stiff then it may be due to fluid retention thus making ‎the patient eligible for the treatment.‎‎
  • A patient would experience pain in the body parts that are affected due to fluid ‎retention.‎‎
  • A patient having a problem of fluid retention would gain weight within a few days ‎or maybe a few weeks.‎‎
  • The patient would observe fluctuations in his/her weight.‎
  • On pressing the skin of the patient an indent is made on the surface.‎‎
  • In some cases, the indent would not be caused after pressing the skin.‎ Patient with some underlying medical condition is also eligible for the treatment of fluid ‎retention as it is one of the symptoms of those diseases.‎

Who is not eligible for the treatment?

The eligibility of a patient for the treatment is decided by the doctor. Based on the diagnosis ‎through blood tests, and scans a doctor decides which patient is eligible and which patient is not ‎eligible for the treatment. A patient having swelling due to an inflammation of the muscles is not ‎eligible for the treatment of fluid retention. A patient that does not have the problem of fluid ‎retention is not eligible for the treatment. There is also a scenario wherein a patient may not be ‎eligible for a particular line of treatment for the disease. For instance, a patient who is allergic to ‎the use of diuretic cannot get treated with this medicine.‎


Are there any side effects?

Side effects are an integral part of treatment. the side effects are observed irrespective of the ‎treatment through medicine, surgery or injectable. The side effects range from being minor to ‎major. If minor side effects occur it usually vanishes after a brief period of time. In case a patient ‎experiences any major side effect then a doctor must be informed immediately. The side effects ‎usually vary from an individual to an individual. Given below is a non-exhaustive list of the side ‎effects observed in a patient when diuretic medicine is given for the treatment of fluid retention

  • Loose Motions
  • A headache
  • Excessively reduced sodium levels
  • Very low potassium levels
  • Gout
  • Lightheadedness
  • Allergic reaction on the skin
  • Increased thirst.‎
  • Cramping of the muscles
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Increased level of blood sugar.‎

If the fluid retention is due to an underlying cause then the side effects would be governed by ‎the type of treatment given by the doctor to the patient. For instance, if fluid retention is due to ‎hypothyroidism and the doctor prescribes thyroxine for the treatment of the condition then the ‎side effects associated with the use of thyroxine are nervousness, irritability, sweating, fever, ‎fluttering in the chest, insomnia, and fever.‎

What are the post-treatment guidelines?

The post-treatment guidelines are a set of activities which are required to be followed by the ‎patient. The post-treatment guidelines have been very helpful in the recovery of the patient. these ‎guidelines not only help in the recovery but it also helps in the prevention of the disease occurring ‎in the future. The post-treatment guidelines to be followed after the treatment of fluid retention ‎are

  • Diuretic medicine must be taken as advised by the doctor.‎
  • The amount of salt intake in the food must be reduced. Foods like salted ‎peanuts and potato chips must be avoided.
  • The dietary supplements advised by the doctor for malnutrition must be ‎taken as advised.‎
  • The patient must avoid standing for a longer period of time.‎
  • The support stocking must be worn by the patients
  • Extreme temperatures like saunas, hot baths, and showers must be avoided.‎

How long doesit take to recover?

There is no specific time limit in which the person recovers from the problem of fluid retention. ‎As fluid retention is just a symptom the complete recovery of the patient would depend on the ‎treatment of the underlying cause of fluid retention. A patient, however, recovers temporarily by ‎using medicines like diuretics.‎

What is the treatment price in India?

The price for the treatment of fluid retention varies as per the location, experience of the doctor ‎and the treatment which the patient would have to undergo. The consultation fees of the doctor ‎would range from 500 to 1000 rupees depending upon the experience of the doctor. In metro ‎cities, the consultation fees of the doctor would be around 1500 rupees. The cost of medicines ‎for the treatment would be additional.‎

Are the results of the treatment permanent?

The result of the treatment for fluid retention may or may not be permanent. The result of the ‎treatment would be governed by the cause of fluid retention. For the permanent cure for fluid ‎retention, the underlying cause must be treated. Treating fluid retention with medicine like ‎diuretic is only a temporary treatment. ‎

What are the alternatives to the treatment?

Apart from the treatment of fluid retention described above, there are some natural remedies for ‎the treatment of the condition. Grapefruit essential oil is an exceptional way of reducing the ‎swelling associated with fluid retention. Herbal diuretic has been a very effective natural diuretic ‎for treating this condition. Consumption of the cranberry juice can be very effective in this ‎condition.‎

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Written ByDr. S.Sagin Raj Diploma in Diabetology,CCRH (certificate in reproductive health),MBBS,F.F.M(family medicine)General Physician
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