What are the Common Causes of Body Swelling?

Meshell Powell

Generalized body swelling, also known as anasarca, is generally the result of severe illness. In this condition, excess fluid builds up underneath the skin, and this fluid may also accumulate around various organs of the body. Some medical conditions that may lead to body swelling include liver, heart, or kidney failure. A rare medical condition called capillary leak syndrome may also cause extreme body swelling.


Liver failure is one potential cause of body swelling. Liver failure occurs when the liver is no longer able to function well enough to support the life of the patient. Liver failure may sometimes happen suddenly, but it is more likely to occur over a period of time. For this reason, swelling of the body is often a gradual process. Common symptoms of liver failure include fatigue, loss of appetite, and diarrhea.

Heart disease or heart failure may lead to widespread body swelling. Heart failure occurs when the heart becomes damaged to the point where it can no longer pump enough blood to the rest of the body. Heart failure symptoms may include irregular heartbeat, fatigue, and shortness of breath.

Kidney failure, also referred to as renal failure, may lead to body swelling because the kidneys are no longer able to properly filter waste materials from the blood, causing a buildup of excess fluid. Some symptoms of kidney failure often include high blood pressure, fatigue, or a decrease in urine output.

Organ failure of any kind may be life-threatening if not treated properly and often aggressively. In some cases, medications can be given in an attempt to drain excess fluids from the body. Medications and lifestyle changes may sometimes be able to slow the progression of organ failure. In many cases, however, organ transplant becomes necessary.

A rare condition known as capillary leak syndrome is known for causing body swelling. This medical condition is often difficult to diagnose, as early symptoms closely mimic those of the common cold. Dizziness and painful swelling typically follow these symptoms, and multiple organ failure may develop rapidly due to the excessive amounts of accumulated fluid within the body. Without immediate treatment, this condition can become fatal in just a matter of hours. Intensive medication therapy, many times accompanied by surgery to drain some of the excess fluid and relieve pressure buildup from the excessive amounts of fluid, is necessary in order to save the life of the patient.

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