The term dehydration is more than just being extremely thirsty. Dehydration occurs when you have lost more fluids than you were able to take in, and your body doesn’t have enough water and other fluids to carry out the body’s normal functions. The inability to replace lost fluids will cause dehydration.
While typically engaging in exercise without drinking enough water can lead to dehydration, even if you’re not exercising in hot weather can also cause dehydration.
Some of the most common causes of dehydration are:
- Vigorous exercise
- Heat exhaustion
- Moderate to severe diarrhea
- Excessive sweating
Signs and symptoms
Symptoms can include thirst, dry mouth, dry cracked lips, poor skin elasticity, weakness, confusion and decreased urine output. Although physical signs and symptoms of dehydration can be enough for a diagnosis, a physician or medical provider may check blood samples to see your levels of electrolytes as well as a urine analysis which can also detect dehydration.
There are levels to dehydration that can cause problems with your blood pressure, heart rate, and body temperature however in more extreme situations, it can lead to kidney damage, brain damage, and even lead to death.
Young children, older adults, and people with chronic illnesses are most at risk however anyone can become dehydrated.
You can usually reverse mild to moderate dehydration by drinking more fluids, but severe dehydration needs immediate medical treatment. The safest approach is preventing dehydration in the first place. Keep an eye on how much fluid you lose during hot weather, illness or exercise, and drink enough liquids to replace what you’ve lost.
Significant complications include:
- Heat exhaustion – If you don’t drink enough fluids when you’re exercising vigorously and perspiring heavily, you may end up with a heat injury, ranging in severity from mild heat cramps to a potentially life-threatening heatstroke.
- Swelling of the brain (cerebral edema) – Sometimes, when your body begins to rehydrate with fluids again, the body tries to pull too much water back into your cells particularly in the brain. This can cause some cells and tissues to swell and rupture.
- Cognitive impairment –
- Seizures – Electrolytes — such as potassium and sodium — help carry electrical signals from cell to cell. If your electrolytes are out of balance, the normal electrical messages can become mixed up, which can lead to involuntary muscle contractions and sometimes to a loss of consciousness.  This is characterized as a seizure.
- Low blood volume shock (hypovolemic shock) – This is one of the most serious, and sometimes life-threatening, complications of dehydration. It occurs when low blood volume that occurs when a person is dehydrate, causes a drop in blood pressure and a drop in the amount of oxygen in your body.
- Kidney failure – This potentially life-threatening problem occurs when your kidneys are no longer able to remove excess fluids and waste from your blood.
- Coma and death – When not treated promptly and appropriately, severe dehydration can be fatal.
The best and most effective way to rehydrate include consuming plenty oral fluids that contain electrolytes and vitamins. Sometimes IV fluids is necessary for rapid improvement however the amount of fluids required may depend on the severity of dehydration and age.
Sparks, D. (2016, September 12). Can dehydration lead to serious complications?. Mayoclinic.org.https://newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org/discussion/dehydration-can-lead-to-seriouscomplications/#:~:text=Low%20blood%20volume%20shock%20 (hypovolemic,of%20oxygen%20in%20your%20body.