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8 Most Detrimental Health Effects of Dehydration

Updated: Apr 4, 2019



Up to 60 percent of the human adult body is made up of water — water we tend to take for granted until we lose enough of it to experience symptoms of dehydration.

Dehydration is a condition in which the body has lost more fluid and electrolytes such as -sodium, potassium, and chloride- than it took in. This condition impairs body's ability to regulate temperature and function normally.

Common causes of dehydration include but are not limited to:

  • FEVER - is a body temperature that’s higher than normal. A short-term increase in body temperature can help the body fight off illness. However, a severe fever can be a symptom of a serious condition that requires immediate medical attention.



  • DIARRHEA - is characterized by loose, watery stools or a frequent need to have a bowel movement. Diarrhea can be a result of a viral or bacterial infection or food poisoning.


  • EXCESSIVE SWEATING - We lose water when we sweat. If we do vigorous activity and don't replace fluids as we go along, we can become dehydrated


  • VOMITING - can be a one-time event linked to something that doesn’t agree with our stomach or recurrent - caused by underlying medical conditions. Frequent vomiting may lead to dehydration, which can be deadly if left untreated.


  • PRESCRIPTION MEDICATIONS - due to the fact that many prescription medications are also diuretics, meaning they make us urinate more often. The increased passing of urine depletes our water supply and leads to dehydration.. Blood pressure medications are commonly associated with this problem.



  • STRESS - can cause dehydration, and dehydration can cause stress - sounds like a vicious cycle. The key solution is to get enough fluids!


  • ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION - due to the fact that alcohol is a diuretic, just like some of those prescription medications.


  • DIABETES - High blood sugar can lead to dehydration by causing frequent urination which is the body's way of getting rid of extra sugar. A large amount of water goes out with that urine, causing our body to dry out.


SYMPTOMS OF DEHYDRATION

  • DARK COLORED URINE - The first sign of dehydration is dark yellow, concentrated urine. Due to the lack of water and oxygen in the body, the blood pressure drops and blood flow to the kidneys reduces. As a result, the kidneys store more water than usual instead of trying to expel it from the body. This results in dark colored, concentrated urine.


  • BAD BREATH - Our breath may be telling us that the body is running extremely low on water content. Saliva has antibacterial properties, but lack of hydration can deter the body from producing enough of it. With our body not making enough saliva in the mouth, bacterial overgrowth is most likely to happen, and as a side effect, lousy breath becomes apparent.


  • FATIGUE - The drop in blood pressure and blood flow caused by dehydration leads to fatigue and makes us feel tired even if we have had a good night sleep.


  • HEADACHE - With the body losing water, essential salts, such as potassium and sodium also get lost, which ultimately alters the chemical makeup of the blood. The loss of water in the brain tissues causes the brain to shrink and move away from the skull triggering a reaction in the pain receptors located in the meninges. The severity of headaches depends on the amount of water we lose.


  • LIGHTHEADEDNESS/DIZZINESS - are associated with dehydration when low blood pressure and electrolyte imbalance are severe enough. If the body is severely robbed of water, extreme confusion and dizziness can occur. As dehydration sets in the heartbeat and breathing will become rapid. We may experience hard to catch a breath, feel fatigued and faint.


  • LOSS OF SKIN ELASTICITY - Water has a vital role when it comes to maintaining the skin’s normal elasticity. That is why it is expected for loss of elasticity to occur whenever the body is dehydrated. This is probably the most definite sign that it is, in fact, dehydration, that the patient is dealing with. A turgor test confirms whether or not the diagnosis is dehydration.


  • CONSTIPATION - When dehydration occurs, the colon loses its normal flexibility causing the passing of stool to become a hard and painful process. In most cases, chronic constipation itself is caused by chronic dehydration simply explained with the fact that when the colon is not getting enough water, it absorbs the water from the food waste, causing infrequent dry stool to occur.


  • INCREASED HEART RATE - Dehydration causes our heart rate to increase, and heart palpitations can be felt. Inadequate fluid presence in the blood causes dehydration and increased heart rate at the same time.


  • MUSCLES CRAMPS AND SPASMS - Imbalance of electrolytes in the body affects the muscle function. Sodium and potassium are the electrolytes which help our muscles to contract. Dehydration can cause an imbalance in these ions, thereby resulting in muscle spasms. In some cases, muscle spasms can even result in muscle cramps with the muscles contracting for a more extended period and causing severe pain.




Detrimental Health Effects of Dehydration

  • ALTERED BLOOD PRESSURE - When dehydrated, the body signals the release of vasopressin, a chemical that causes blood vessels to constrict. The process of constriction causes blood pressure to increase - which known as hypertension. Conversely, dehydration can also cause blood pressure to drop - which known as hypotension. Nonetheless, consistently too low or too high blood pressure readings can be damaging to blood vessels and the entire body.



  • KIDNEY STONES - A major risk factor for kidney stones is constant dehydration and low urine volume. The resulting concentrated urine lessens the ability to keep salts dissolved and heightens the potential for stones to form.


  • SEIZURES - Hydration status can significantly impact electrolytes, including both sodium and potassium, which are responsible for carrying out electrical signals from cell to cell. When electrolytes become imbalanced, cell communication becomes faulted, which, in turn, induces a seizure, and leads to involuntary muscle contractions and a loss of consciousness.





  • HYPOVOLEMIC SHOCK - or hemorrhagic shock - results from a significant loss of blood or body fluid, and is a life-threatening condition. A 20 percent loss of body volume makes it impossible for the heart to pump a sufficient amount of oxygenated blood to the body system, increasing the risk of organ failure


  • DEPRESSION - The brain requires 85% water - more than any other organ in the body. Water deficiency in brain cells can result in an immediate cut down of the brain’s energy supply, which leads to fatigue, lethargy, and depression.


  • JOINT COMPLICATIONS - Dehydration causes the cartilage in joints to rub against each other, causing weakening and wearing over time. Lack of water increases the delay of repair to these damaged joints and over time the cartilage can wear out completely.


  • KIDNEY DISEASE - When the body is dehydrated, the kidneys reduce urine formation which causes the capillaries to constrict in areas like the heart and brain, resulting in high blood pressure. The combination of high blood pressure and urine retention causes serious kidney damage and could eventually lead to kidney disease.


  • DEATH - Water totals about 60% of the body’s total weight. Every single bodily function and process needs water to remain active and healthy. Severe dehydration can be fatal so it is important to notice all of the warning signs and quickly do something to fix them!


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