The Dangers Of Dehydration
Up to 75% of people in the United States could be chronically dehydrated. We all know that we need water to live, but did you know that dehydration can lead to more than just a mild headache?
In this article, you’ll learn all about the symptoms of dehydration, the dangers of dehydration, and how you can make sure you stay healthy and hydrated.
Ready? Let’s get started.
What is Dehydration?
When your water intake is less than your water loss, dehydration occurs. Our bodies need water to function, and elderly and young people are more likely to get dehydrated.
55-60% of our bodies are made up of water. Water is a vital nutrient and acts as a building material. It flushes waste through our systems, lubricates joints, and acts as a shock absorber for our spinal cords and brains.
We routinely lose water when we breathe, sweat, and go to the bathroom. And we need to drink a significant amount of water so we can replace this loss.
When you haven’t taken in enough water, or there’s too much water lost, dehydration will occur.
Symptoms of Dehydration
Some of the symptoms of dehydration include:
If you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated. This is a sign that you need to drink some water (not coffee, soft drinks, and energy drinks).
Dark Colored Urine
If you don’t listen to your thirst signals, you can expect to see dark urine. You’ll also go to the bathroom less during the day.
While you may assume that only athletes get muscle cramps, this is not the case. If you’re not drinking enough fluids, you may become prone to muscle cramps. Dehydration causes your muscles to involuntarily cramp and also causes hypersensitivity.
After you eat, your body breaks down your food in your small intestine. Any non-essential parts of your food are then converted to waste. When you’re dehydrated, your intestinal cells extract water from this waste, which causes it to become hard and leads to constipation.
One of the dangers of dehydration? High blood pressure.
When you’re body’s cells are lacking water, your brain will send a signal to your pituitary gland. This causes it to secrete vasopressin which constricts your blood vessels. And that makes your blood pressure increase, leading to hypertension.
When you’re chronically dehydrated, the cartilage in your joints begins rubbing against each other. This causes them to weaken and wear over time. When you don’t drink enough water, your body has to do more repair to those damaged joints every day, and the cartilage can even completely wear out over time.
When you’re dehydrated, your kidneys reduce their urine formation. The capillaries then begin constricting in your brain and heart, which increases your blood pressure. This combination of urine retention and high blood pressure, causing kidney damage and eventually even kidney disease.
Your brain needs 85% water- which is more than any of your other organs. When you have water deficiency in your brain cells, the energy in your brain decreases, which leads to depression, lethargy, and fatigue.
Dehydration causes you to experience headaches. This is because you lose electrolytes like chloride, potassium, and sodium. Headaches caused by dehydration an either be distributed throughout your head or on just one side. Bending over or walking can make it feel worse.
The Dangers of Dehydration
After 2% of your normal water volume is lost, you’ll begin noticing symptoms of dehydration. First, you’ll experience discomfort and thirst, often with dry skin and loss of appetite. You may also experience a rapid heart rate, flushing, and fatigue.
The more water you lose, the more severe your symptoms become. And the dangers of dehydration become more serious. Your respiration and heart rates will begin increasing which compensates for decreased blood pressure and plasma volume. Your body temperature may also rise as your body decreases the amount you sweat.
Once you’ve experienced 5-6% fluid loss, you can expect to become sleepy or groggy, experience nausea or headaches, and get tingling in your limbs.
With a fluid loss of 10-15%, your urination will be greatly reduced (and may be painful), your skin may wrinkle and shrivel, your muscles may become spastic, and you may begin experiencing delirium.
More than 15% fluid loss is usually fatal.
Before your doctor begins any tests, they’ll look at your symptoms to rule out any other possible conditions. After they take your medical history, your doctor will check vital signs like your blood pressure and heart rate. A rapid heart rate and low blood pressure are solid signs that you’re dehydrated.
Your doctor may also take a blood test to check your electrolyte level. This helps see the level of fluid loss you’ve experienced. This blood test is also a good way to look at your level of creatine which shows whether your kidneys are functioning well.
They may also use your urine, checking the color and looking for electrolyte loss and the presence of bacteria.
There are a number of different treatments for dehydration. Because dehydration is so serious, it’s crucial that you’re treated quickly if you become dehydrated.
You’ll need to be rehydrated. This is when your fluids are replaced by IV or drinking. If you’re suffering from vomiting or diarrhea, drinking may not be possible but fluids can instead be given intravenously. This is when a small IV tube is inserted into the vein in your arm, and you receive a mix of electrolytes and water.
As you can see, the dangers of dehydration can be serious and even deadly. It’s best to prevent dehydration in the first place by drinking plenty of water and cutting down on soda and coffee. But if you do get dehydrated, it’s crucial that you act quickly to rehydrate yourself and avoid the above dangers.
Whether you’re suffering from the world’s worst hangover, you’ve been exercising in the heat, or you’ve been sick, we can help you stay hydrated. Get in touch today to learn more.