Why do we get all swollen up?

Posted by Lachmi Deb Roy on Mon, Jan 24, 2011  
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We have often experienced the horror of our face, hands and feet swelling up with out warning. We can swell up for reasons that are often ordinary- sitting for a long time, hot weather, eating too much salt or if you are expecting your periods. To effectively control our oedema as water retention is medically termed, it is important to identify and treat the underlying cause.


Now the common question that arises is how do you know that you are suffering from Oedema? When excess fluid gets trapped in your body tissues oedema occurs. Swelling may occurs through out the body due to water retention. This water retention is seen through out the body in your hands, arms feet, ankles and legs. Premenstrual syndrome, which occurs prior to your menstrual cycle, can cause bloating. Pregnancy too can cause swelling in your hands and feet because of the excess fluid retention. Swelling shows as puffiness of the tissue under your skin. The skin stretches and becomes shiny and after it is being pressed with a finger it gets dimpled. You may gain weight rapidly in few days. There may be aches and pains in your joints. Seek immediate medical help if you have shortness of breath and chest pain.


The common reasons for swelling are –

  • Standing for long periods of time or sitting in one position.
  • Water retention can happen in the body a week prior to menstruation.
  • Hormones during pregnancy make the body retain excess fluid.
  • Oral contraceptives can also lead to bloating.
  • Deficiency of protein and vitamin B1(thiamine) in diet.
  • Weakened valves in the veins of the legs- chronic venous insufficiency result in pooling of blood causing varicose veins.
  • High blood pressure and blood sugar medicines can cause fluid retention.
  • Eating too much salt.


If you happen to ignore your swelling, it may become painful. You may experience stiffness, the stretched skin may become itchy and uncomfortable. The blood circulation in the swollen area decreases. There can be decreased elasticity of arteries, veins, joints and muscles. Your doctor may advise a urine test and blood test or a chest x-ray.


Treating the underlying cause of swelling is the first step. Medications such as diuretics help in increasing your kidney’s output of water and sodium. But these are not good for pregnant women and those with chronic venous insufficiency. Swelling due to allergic reactions can go with antihistamines. Topical ointments are available to reduce swelling.


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