Common Causes & Symptoms of Dehydration

Dehydration is the condition of not having enough fluid in the body for it to function properly. The human body is mainly comprised of water molecules. With that being said, the body does not function well when fluid levels begin to drop. Fatigue, body aches, head aches and various other symptoms can appear when the body begins to lose excessive amounts of fluid.

What Causes Dehydration?

Several things are known to cause dehydration.

  • Diarrhea – When the body experiences a virus, diarrhea is a common result especially if it affects the digestive tract. Large volumes of fluids are released into the intestines in an attempt to flush out the toxin or virus. The result is extremely watery stools that carry the contaminant out of the body.
  • Vomiting – Vomiting, much like diarrhea, is the body’s way of ridding something that it does not need or want. While diarrhea affects the second part of the digestive tract, vomiting is generally used to rid the stomach of its contents. Stomach acids and water are released by the body to carry the virus or other irritant out of the stomach by sending it back out the way it came in, up the esophagus and out the mouth.
  • Excessive consumption of alcoholic beverages – Consuming alcoholic beverages can also cause dehydration. Ingredients in the alcohol cause the body, especially the brain, to lose valuable fluids that it needs to function properly. This can lead to the vastly unpopular, hangover headache that often accompanies a night of overindulgence.
  • Excessive sweating – Excessive sweating that comes from working or exercising in high temperatures. Sweating profusely can lead to dehydration and mild forms of heat stroke. Individuals who suffer from heat exhaustion or heat stroke, may stop perspiring if the condition becomes too severe.
  • High fevers – When a person is ill, a fever is the body’s’ way of killing off viruses and bacteria that are trying to take over. Many germs and microbes cannot live in temperatures higher than 98 to 100 degrees, so a fever is the perfect weapon to stop them from causing too much damage to the system.

Symptoms of Dehydration

Several symptoms appear to indicate dehydration. Symptoms may be mild at first, if the body is showing signs of mild fluid loss. As dehydration progresses, the symptoms can become more severe, indicating a need for emergency care. When it gets to that point, IV fluids are needed that can be absorbed directly into the bloodstream.

Symptoms include:

  • Sunken or hollow eyes
  • The eyes cannot produce tears or water sufficiently
  • Dry mouth, sticky feeling between tongue and other tissues
  • Darkened urine (ranging from deep yellow to orange to brown)
  • Little to no urine output
  • Lethargy and fatigue (if allowed to become severe, can result in a coma or death)

Once a body has reached a certain point of dehydration, consuming fluids by mouth is not sufficient to re-establish the level of water needed to survive. When this occurs, intravenous fluids must be given to flood the system with the fluid it needs to remain viable. If there is any question as to how dehydrated a person might be, taking them to an emergency room or scheduling them to see the doctor as soon as possible is recommended. In some cases, the symptoms of dehydration may not be apparent until its too late.