Dehydration occurs when the body loses more fluid than it takes in, which means the body doesn’t have the fluids needed to take care of normal, necessary functions. If lost fluids are not replaced, dehydration takes place. While dehydration can occur in anyone, those with the highest risk include individuals with chronic illnesses, older adults, and young children. Although drinking more fluids can usually reverse mild dehydration, severe dehydration requires emergency medical intervention.
Symptoms of Dehydration
Mild or moderate dehydration may result in:
- Increased thirst
- Sticky, dry mouth
- Lightheadedness or dizziness
- Dry skin
- Tiredness or sleepiness
- Decrease in urine output
Severe dehydration, which is a medical emergency, may cause the following symptoms:
- Sunken eyes
- Rapid heartbeat
- Extreme thirst
- Confusion and irritability
- Low blood pressure
- Rapid respiration
- Extremely dry skin, mucous membranes, and mouth
- Little to no urination – any urine produced is very dark
- Unconsciousness or delirium in extreme, serious cases (heat stroke)
Causes of Dehydration
Some potential causes of dehydration may include:
- Fever – A high fever may result in dehydration, particularly if it’s accompanied by vomiting or diarrhea.
- Vomiting and Diarrhea – Excessive vomiting and severe diarrhea have the potential to result in dehydration, and infants and children are particularly at risk.
- Increased Urination – Whether it’s due to uncontrolled or undiagnosed diabetes or a side effect of certain medications, increased urination may lead to dehydration.
- Excessive Sweating – Sweating results in the loss of water from the body. Individuals involved in sports are at risk, and humid, hot weather can increase the amount of fluid lost while seating
Tests and Diagnosis
In most cases, basic physical signs are enough to help a physician diagnose dehydration. However, in order to confirm a diagnosis of dehydration and to pinpoint the exact degree of dehydration, other tests may be required, such as:
- Urinalysis – Urine tests can help to show the degree of dehydration.
- Blood Tests – Blood tests may be done to check for electrolyte levels, particularly potassium and sodium, and to check kidney function.
Severe dehydration has the potential to result in severe complications, which is why fast treatment is so essential. Some of the potential complications that may come with severe dehydration include
- Kidney Failure – When the kidneys aren’t able to remove excess waste and fluids from the blood, this can become a life-threatening issue. The kidneys are particularly sensitive to dehydration.
- Brain swelling – As you begin to get fluids after you have become dehydrated, cells may swell and rupture as the body works to pull water back into cells. This can be dangerous if the brain cells are affected
- Seizures – If electrolytes become unbalanced, electrical messages may get mixed up, resulting on loss of consciousness or involuntary muscle contractions.
- Low Blood Volume – Dehydration has the potential to result in low blood volume, which can cause a drop in oxygen in the body as well as a drop in blood pressure.
- Death – If not treated quickly and effectively, severe hydration may result in death.
The only way to treat severe dehydration is to ensure that lost fluids and electrolytes are replaced. However, the best way to treat dehydration depends on the cause, severity, and the age of the patient. Dehydration is a serious problem that has the potential to become deadly, so seeking treatment at Pinnacle ER immediately is important.