Despite its commonness, dehydration is rarely discussed in the media or news. This silent medical ailment occurs whenever someone does not receive the amount of fluid that they need.
They may not be consuming enough water or they may be dealing with excessive amounts of heat and physical exertion. No matter what the cause is, dehydration can be a potentially dangerous medical ailment.
What is Dehydration?
Essentially, dehydration occurs when the body is losing more fluids than it takes in. Water is a necessary nutrient required by the cells and body to function properly.
In normal daily life, water is lost through water vapor in breath, stools, urine or sweat. Whenever water is released from the body, a slight amount of salt is also released. According to some researchers, there are essentially three types of dehydration.
Hypotonic dehydration is when the majority of substance lost by the body is in the form of electrolytes or sodium. With hypertonic dehydration, individuals may lose some electrolytes, but they are primarily losing water.
Isotonic dehydration is when equal parts of water and electrolytes are lost. The most common form of dehydration is isotonic.
What Causes Dehydration?
There are a wide range of conditions that can lead to dehydration. One of the most common ones is heat exposure or excessive exercising. Individuals who have a fever may also lose excessive amounts of water.
In addition, patients that have excessive urination, vomiting or diarrhea may expel more fluid than they can intake. Injuries like burns, skin infections or mouth sores can allow water to escape from the body.
Although dehydration can be caused by the excessive release of fluid, it may stem from a lack of fluid consumed. Individuals may be unable to receive enough water or food if they are too young or disabled.
If the individual is unable to drink, they may become dehydrated. Commonly, this occurs among coma patients, injured individuals and sick infants. Likewise, people may not be able to access safe drinking water.
Who is at Risk for Dehydration?
Anyone is at risk for dehydration if they do not consume enough liquid. Athletes may become dehydrated if they do not drink enough fluids after exercising. Whenever the weather heats up, there is always a marked rise in dehydration cases.
Some of the most common cases of dehydration occur in people who are not able to physically obtain liquid. They may suffer from a disability, have mental disorders or be too young to drink water. People who are located away from clean water sources or who cannot reach the water source easily may develop dehydration.
What are The Symptoms of Dehydration?
Individuals may not notice that they are becoming dehydrated at first. Many cases of overeating occur because people feel hungry before they feel thirsty. When individuals continue to be dehydrated, they may develop a dry mouth and their tongue may swell. The individual may suffer from feelings of weakness or dizziness.
In the initial stages, they may also feel thirsty all the time and develop water retention. If the condition progresses further, the symptoms may become more severe. The individual may be incapable of sweating or feel sluggish. They may suffer from a sense of confusion or heart palpitations.
Without adequate liquid, the urine output will decrease and they may faint easily. Likewise, the urine color may become dark yellow or amber if someone is dehydrated.
How is Dehydration Linked to Water Retention Problems?
It may seem counter intuitive, but water retention often occurs in the initial stages of dehydration. As the body loses fluids, it will try to make up for the loss by conserving any remaining. It will make urine output decrease and remove excess fluid from any stool. Instead of processing liquid out of the body, the water is reabsorbed into the tissue.
When this occurs, someone will suffer from the swelling and pain caused by water retention. If the dehydration progresses, it may make the water retention go away. Unfortunately, the water retention will only go away in this instance due to severe dehydration. The only way to remove the medical risks, water retention and dehydration permanently is to begin drinking more fluids.
How is Dehydration Diagnosed?
Dehydration is typically diagnosed by a doctor. They may take vital signs like the heart rate, blood pressure and check for signs of a fever.
In addition, doctors will often use blood or urine tests to figure out the cause of the dehydration.
A urine test will also show the color and clarity of the urine. Any ketones present will indicate that the body is dehydrated. If there is a significant amount of protein present in the urine, it could be a sign that there is an underlying kidney problem. Blood tests will look for the amount of salt and sugar available.
This will indicate to the doctor how well the kidney is functioning. In addition, a blood test may show if there are any infections that could be causing the dehydration.
How is Dehydration Prevented?
Since dehydration can be a dangerous medical condition, individuals should always work to prevent it from happening. They can drink extra fluid before working out or being outside for long time periods. If the weather is exceptionally hot, they may want to avoid being outside.
In addition, avoiding diuretics like coffee and alcohol can help prevent dehydration. In the case of disabled, elderly or young individuals, their caretaker can make sure that drinking water is readily available.
How Can Dehydration be Treated?
With adults, dehydration can often be treated at home. They should drink additional water or electrolyte drinks. Ice chips or popsicles can also increase someone’s fluid intake.
If the individual has been exposed to too much heat, they can be cooled through air conditioning, fans, spray bottles or ice water. When dehydration is serious, a doctor may use an IV to speed up the rehydration process.
Dehydration can be a serious illness. It can cause heart palpitations, water retention and fainting. Although the easiest treatment is through prevention, individuals can receive medical assistance to speed up recovery.