• Friday July 10,2020

Lack of fluid (dehydration)

The human body consists of about 70% water. Accordingly important is a balanced water balance. Lack of fluid (dehydration) can quickly lead to life-threatening conditions. Not only is the fluid missing, but also electrolytes. Thus, the electrolyte balance can be greatly disturbed.

What is dehydration?

As a rule, the human body is given a normal hydration of two liters daily. Not enough liquid supplied to the body can cause dehydration.

If there is a fluid deficit in the organism, this is called dehydration or lack of fluid. If it is an extreme fluid loss, this can lead to exsiccosis, dehydration of the body.

The body is already missing 0.5% fluid when a feeling of thirst is felt.

Throughout the day, the body constantly loses water through sweating, metabolic processes and renal excretion. As a rule, a normal fluid intake of two liters daily is enough to compensate for this loss. Not enough liquid supplied to the body can cause dehydration.


The causes of a fluid deficiency can be manifold. The most common reason is a lack of fluid intake. Older people in particular often drink too little, since they feel thirsty.

Infants and young children are at risk of lack of fluids due to fever and diarrhea. They have much lower fluid reserves, which is why the body can hardly compensate for water losses.

Accidental injuries such as heavy bleeding, sepsis or burns can also lead to dehydration. In addition, there is a risk of shock, as the rapid fluid loss leads to a lack of volume in the organism.

In addition, conditions such as kidney disease, diabetes, diabetic coma, or treatment with diuretics may be responsible for dehydration.

Diseases with this symptom

  • Diabetes insipidus
  • abdominal influenza
  • Diabetic coma
  • Acute kidney failure
  • Bacterial infection
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Adrenocortical insufficiency
  • blood poisoning
  • combustion

Symptoms & History

Dehydration causes symptoms such as thirst, dry skin and mucous membranes, dizziness, weakness, confusion, loss of consciousness and collapse. Since almost all areas of the organism are affected, the symptoms can be broad depending on the severity. Most of the causes can quickly infer a possible lack of fluid.

If countermeasures are taken in good time and the causes are not severe, the patient usually recovers quickly.

Important for the further course is especially the fight against causes. For example, if there are serious injuries or burns, the course can be associated with complications, since not only the loss of fluid is a problem, but related especially the loss of electrolyte.

Thus, a blood test with a special view of the electrolyte values ​​is of particular importance for the diagnosis.


Since the body consists of 70 percent water, a lack of fluid quickly becomes noticeable. Thus, there is initially an increase in blood pressure, which can lead to circulatory disorders and headaches. Another common complication of dehydration of the body is the loss of electrolytes. These are minerals that the body absolutely needs, so that all body functions can run smoothly. If there is a deficiency of these electrolytes, this is manifested among other things by headaches, muscle tremors and cramps as well as circulatory failure. A lack of electrolytes may also occur in a treated dehydration, unless care was taken to an increased supply of electrolytes.

Other complications of a fluid deficit are difficulty concentrating, an increased susceptibility to infection, an increasing body temperature and digestive difficulties. An untreated lack of fluid leads to further complications. These include external symptoms such as dry skin and mucous membranes. Internal symptoms of dehydration are dizziness, low blood pressure, weakness and confusion. In the further course, unconsciousness or circulatory collapse may occur.

If the fluid content of the body decreases further and further, it eventually leads to exsiccosis, ie to dehydration. This is associated with a change in the blood composition, urinary behavior, a rapid drop in blood pressure to circulatory failure. At this stage of dehydration it can also lead to severe, sometimes irreversible kidney damage.

When should you go to the doctor?

Lack of fluid, referred to by the medical term dehydration, can be life-threatening within a short time. Not only is the lack of fluid per se so dangerous, but also the associated loss of electrolytes. Among other things, the electrolytes control important cell functions, so a balanced electrolyte balance is vital. This ensures only a balanced physical water balance. In case of dangerous dehydration, immediately call a physician.

The human body consists of almost three quarters of water. Lack of fluid or dehydration soon leads to dramatic effects. It starts with signs such as circulatory problems, rising blood pressure, headaches and concentration problems. Immediate drinking water and a doctor's visit are indicated. Otherwise, the electrolytes will soon fall out, and there will be muscle tremors and muscle cramps. Now it is high time for the consultation of a doctor, which is already thinking of an ambulance. With progressive fluid reduction, it would come to the so-called exsiccosis, dehydration.

The involvement of a physician in the event of dehydration is therefore so important in order to prevent subsequent consequential damage. Intensive care of fluids and electrolytes does indeed restore dehydration. However, the kidneys can be severely and irreversibly affected by the lack of fluid.

A doctor will not only treat the lack of volatility, but clarify whether the dehydration was due to a treatment-requiring underlying disease.

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Treatment & Therapy

Depending on the severity, dehydration is treated with the addition of fluid. In emergency medicine, this is the intravenous administration of full electrolyte solutions as well as high blood losses of the volume replacement. In the clinic, the treatment of the cause comes first to prevent further fluid loss.

In case of heavy bleeding the bleeding is accordingly stopped and in parallel the loss of fluid is treated with the administration of stored blood and electrolyte solutions.

In severe diarrheal diseases, the infection is treated by medication. In most cases, such diseases require a slow fluid intake via a drip. In this way, the compensation of missing electrolytes takes place.

In mild forms of dehydration, it is usually sufficient if the patient drinks enough to compensate for the increased fluid requirement. In addition, the attending physician can use a blood test to decide if additional medication is needed. This may be the case if certain electrolytes such as magnesium, sodium or calcium are missing.

Important for the treatment is not only the supply of fluid, but also the balance of the electrolyte balance, as these are crucial for all vital processes in the body.

Outlook & Forecast

Lack of fluid leads to serious health problems if not treated. Chronic dehydration means a decrease in mental and physical performance associated with, among other things, confusion, disorientation, muscle cramps and cardiovascular disease.

The deficiency of the organs and the brain has an initially mild effect on the entire organism. The longer the dehydration persists, the more likely are permanent lesions that can cause further disease. The prospect of a speedy recovery is not present in a chronic or acute course of fluid deficiency. Infants, pregnant women and the elderly can be severely damaged without liquid even after just a few hours.

On the other hand, transient fluid deficiency can usually be completely compensated and has no long-term consequences, provided that there are no corresponding underlying diseases. If the body is supplied quickly with liquid again and the causes are not serious, the symptoms also decrease again. Those affected usually feel the typical hangover for one to two days before the symptoms have completely resolved.

Decisive for an uncomplicated course is the fight against causes. If it is possible to find and treat the cause of the fluid deficiency, there is the prospect of a complete recovery.


Apart from accidents and serious illnesses, a dehydration can basically be avoided by sufficient daily hydration.

After heavy sweating, for example, more should be drunk. It is advisable to use unsweetened tea, mineral water or fruit spritzers. Young children and the elderly are always encouraged to drink, since they either do not feel well or are no longer adequately well-fed.

If pre-existing conditions such as renal insufficiency or diabetes can trigger dehydration, the treatment of these diseases is in the foreground.

You can do that yourself

Since dehydration can be life-threatening, particular care should be taken to avoid such a condition by adequate hydration. In the case of diseases such as diarrhea, appropriate measures must be taken to prevent serious fluid deficiency in the body or to compensate for this as quickly as possible.

By water and food intake, the total fluid losses of the body, which are caused by excretions in urine and faeces, by sweating and breathing, are always compensated. The guideline for the average water intake is 35 ml per day and kilogram of body weight. High temperatures and extreme physical activity can result in fluid losses that can reach three to four liters per hour. In these situations, not only the water balance, but also to supplement the lost electrolytes, especially sodium, to think. Elderly people feel less thirsty. The resulting dehydration, which can lead to health problems, should be avoided. A strictly following drinking plan can be a solution here.

If it has already come to a dehydration, it must be balanced. In case of a slight lack of fluids, drinking is the first thing to balance the loss of water. Self-help is often no longer possible in case of weakened or ill patients and high fluid losses, the consultation of a doctor is unavoidable. In these cases, infusions must be carried out containing not only water but also electrolytes and / or glucose.

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