Dehydration occurs when your body loses so much fluid it cannot function normally. Common in older adults and children, it usually results from excessive sweating, diarrhea or vomiting. Resting and drinking water resolve the problem in most cases. Chronic dehydration, however, is a long-term condition.
Ongoing dehydration affects your ability to think, feel and perform physical and cognitive tasks. A 2012 study done by the University of Connecticut’s Human Performance Laboratory found that even mild dehydration affected participants’ energy level, mood and thought process. Results were the same if the person sat for 40 minutes or walked on a treadmill for the same length of time.
What is chronic dehydration?
It is a condition that forces your body to function without enough water on an ongoing basis. Often seen in older adults because they have a lower water volume in their bodies, it can also result from chronic illnesses and medications. If not managed, it can lead to issues like coronary problems and kidney stones.
It is even possible to have extended dehydration on days when you take in adequate fluid. Unlike typical dehydration, drinking more water won’t necessarily solve the problem. You may also need to restore the electrolytes your body has lost to recover.
What causes it?
Simple dehydration occurs when you lose too much water or don’t drink enough. However, other issues may contribute to the problem. Medical News Today published an article in 2017 that listed the following causes:
• The most common cause of dehydration is diarrhea. To function properly, your intestines must absorb fluid from the foods you eat. Diarrhea keeps this from taking place and causes you to lose too much water.
• Vomiting causes the loss of fluid and makes it hard to replace.
• Sweating from strenuous exercise, hot weather or fever reduces fluid levels.
• Stress lowers your body’s ability to replenish itself.
• The high blood sugar levels in diabetes lead to an increase in urination and fluid loss.
• Alcohol and medications, such as antihistamines, diuretics, high blood pressure medications and antipsychotics, cause frequent urination, resulting in loss of fluid.
• Burns that damage blood vessels cause fluid to leak into the adjacent tissues.
What are the symptoms?
With typical dehydration, you may have symptoms of intense thirst, dizziness, dark urine, and tired muscles. However, ongoing dehydration may affect you differently. According to Healthline.com, you may or may not experience the symptoms listed above because your body gets less sensitive as it tried to adapt to a chronic lack of water. You may, however, experience these ongoing signs: dry skin, weak muscles, fatigue, constipation and headaches.
Medical signs used to detect dehydration include abnormal electrolyte levels, concentrated blood volume, and a gradual decline in kidney function. You can find more information in this video by an emergency room physician.
What is the treatment for chronic dehydration?
Usually, the first step to restoring your body’s fluid balance is drinking water or beverages with electrolytes. You can also eat foods like cucumbers, watermelon, and salty broths or soup, but avoid drinks like coffee, soda, tea and alcohol. They remove water from your body.
If you are severely dehydrated, you may need to see a doctor or go to a hospital for an IV to restore the mineral salts in your body. WebMD recommends seeing a doctor if you haven’t urinated in eight hours or can’t keep fluids down because you are vomiting. Other signs that call for medical attention are a rapid or weak pulse, dizziness, confusion and seizures.
If you think you are chronically dehydrated because of your age, health, medications or lifestyle, talk your doctor about ways to change your daily routine to make dehydration less likely.