Dehydration

Definition

Dehydration results from excessive loss of fluids from the body.

Causes

To work properly, the body requires a certain amount of water and other elements, called electrolytes. Drinking and eating help to replace fluids that have been lost through the body's functions. Fluids are normally lost through sweat, urine, bowel movements, and breathing. If you lose a lot of fluids and do not replace them, you can become dehydrated.

Risk Factors

Dehydration is more common in children younger than 2 years and people aged 65 years or older, especially those with chronic illness. Factors that may increase the risk of dehydration include:
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • High fever
  • Exposure to the heat and sun
  • Excessive exercise, including athletic competitions
  • Living in a nursing home or long-term care facility
  • Medications, including diuretics and laxatives
  • Reduced fluid intake due to certain conditions, such as movement problems, mental health or memory problems, decreased ability to perceive thirst
  • Fluid imbalance caused by certain conditions, such as diabetes, kidney disease, burns, and infection

Symptoms

Symptoms vary depending on the degree of dehydration. Symptoms may include:
  • Dry mouth
  • Limited tear production
  • Thirst
  • Weakness
  • Decreased urination
  • Concentrated urine—darker color, stronger odor
  • Wrinkled skin or dry skin
  • Parched, cracked lips
  • Lightheadedness
  • Drowsiness
  • Nausea
  • Irritability
  • Confusion
  • Fever
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Fast breathing
  • Weight loss
  • In infants, sunken soft spot in the skull
Soft Spot in Infant Skull
Infant Soft Spot
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.
Dehydration can be extremely serious and life threatening. It may require immediate medical care.

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