Flushes body waste, lubricates joints, delivers oxygen to the body, converts food to usable energy, and is the major component of body parts and keeps life sustained… Considering what water does for us, its intake and availability is vital to human health. And without it, there really is no surprise the body can become compromised and these eight dangers of dehydration prove just how important water is to life!

Causes of Dehydration

The causes of dehydration can be more complicated than simply not drinking enough water, and may include:

  • Fever and increased body heat
  • Diarrhea, vomiting, and increased urination related to infection
  • Skin injuries or diseases, including burns and sores, as water is lost through damaged skin
  • Some medications, such as diuretics, may cause dry mouth and dehydration
  • Certain diseases, including diabetes and Addison disease
  • Excessive sweating from too much exercise, especially in the heat
  • Limited access to a safe water supply
  • Impaired ability to drink, such as someone attached to a respiratory or in a coma

8 Dangers of Dehydration

Indicators of dehydration include a decreased urine output, also demonstrating a deep yellow or amber color to the concentrated urine produced, along with a dry mouth and swollen tongue, lost skin elasticity, and muscle cramps and joint pain. And whether mild or severe, the dangers of dehydration closely align to signs and symptoms of inadequate fluid intake:

1. Constipation

Insufficient water intake increases the risk of becoming constipated, mostly by hardening the stool and making it difficult to pass. Constipation can be severely uncomfortable and painful, and may further cause nausea and vomiting, abdominal distention and bloating, and headache to the affected individual.

2. Lethargy and Confusion

Being dehydrated can cause individuals to feel tired and weak, with one in five individuals not realizing their own lack of energy is related to dehydration, and less than four percent being aware of how much water they should actually be drinking. Additional repercussions include headache, poor concentration, and confusion, which provokes the risk of personal injury or harm to others.

3. 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 pressure to increase and high blood pressure, also known as hypertension. Conversely, dehydration can also cause blood pressure to drop, or hypotension. Nonetheless, consistently too low or high blood pressure readings can be damaging to blood vessels and the entire body.

4. Kidney Disease

The combination of concentrated urine and high blood pressure heightens the risk of kidney damage, or more predominately, acute kidney disease (AKI). Uremia is an additional consequence of kidney damage, and occurs when the kidneys are unable to excrete toxic byproducts from the body. These waste products continue to build and may cause a plethora of health consequences, including changes in mental status and shortness of breath.

5. Kidney Stones

According to the Urology Care Foundation, a major risk factor for kidney stones is constant low urine volume. The resulting concentrated urine lessens the ability to keep salts dissolved and heightens the potential for stones to form.

6. Seizures

Hydration status can significantly impact electrolytes, including both sodium and potassium, which are responsible for carrying out electrical signals from cell to cell. If electrolytes become imbalanced, cell communication can become faulted, induce a seizure, and lead to involuntary muscle contractions and a loss of consciousness.

7. Hypovolemic Shock

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

8. Death

The cultivation and acceleration of such dangers ultimately heightens the potential for fatality, especially if a subpar hydration status is unresolved.

Preventing Dehydration

First and foremost, it is important to address and manage the underlying cause of dehydration, whether it be a fever or a skin injury. For normally healthy individuals, most recommendations encourage at least eight, 8-ounce glasses of water each day, ultimately reducing the intake of soda, energy drinks, tea, and coffee, which may act as a diuretic. Replenishing electrolytes lost in sweat with sports drinks may be an alternative route for reducing dehydration and electrolyte imbalances in exercisers and athletes. Interestingly, too, you can go overboard with water intake and spark a great health concern known as hyponatremia, a condition in which the body has too much water and not enough sodium. The brain essentially becomes swollen with water, potentially leading to confusion, seizures, coma, or even death. Additionally, specific health conditions may require fluid restrictions for medical management, including congestive heart failure and kidney disease. A healthcare professional can further assist in determining an appropriate water regimen for you.