Dehydration occurs due to a lack of water intake and if that goes on for a longer period of time then it results in chronic dehydration. The daily recommendation of water intake for adults is 15 cups (3.7 L) for men and 11 cups (2.7 L) for women (source). These water requirements can vary based on the lifestyle habits of that person, diet and level of energy consumption etc.
Chronic dehydration can be serious if not taken into account as it can lead to many diseases such as kidney stone development and even heart problems. This is why it is important to know the symptoms of chronic dehydration, its causes and treatment.
In this blog, we have covered:
- What is Chronic Dehydration
- Chronic Dehydration Symptoms
- Chronic Dehydration Causes
- Chronic Dehydration Treatment
When you consume less water than required for a normal human being of your age and that too for a long period of time, then it is known as chronic dehydration. Chronic dehydration is different from that acute dehydration that gets treated after consuming just one glass of water.
This dehydration needs continuous monitoring of water levels in the body and regular habits of drinking water and electrolyte drinks. Regular Electrolyte testing and urinalysis are also required to check for its severity.
- Feeling thirsty – This is the commonest dehydration symptom but it may not happen to everyone, for example, older adults may not feel thirsty even after being dehydrated.
- Dry Mouth & throat – The patient feels better after keeping ice chips in their mouth.
- Fatigue – The dehydrated person may feel lethargic, fatigued and low on energy due to mineral deficiency as dehydration accompanies electrolyte loss as well such as sweat containing sodium and water.
- Dizziness & Headache – When a person gets up from a lying down position, he or she feels dizzy as the heart rate increases but the blood supply to the brain is not proper. The patient may also feel unable to concentrate.
- Dark Urine – It is also one of the classic symptoms of chronic dehydration. Keeping an eye on your urine color is advised, although taking vitamin B supplements will make your urine color on the darker side as well.
- Constipation – As the body tries to preserve water, the defecation is hampered and the patient feels constipated.
- Dry Skin – The effect of water scarcity can be seen on the skin as it becomes dry & flaky.
- Kidney stones may also form due to less water intake.
- Chronic dehydration can cause urinary tract infections, dementia and even intestinal failure.
- Rapid Heart Rate or palpitations – The patient can listen to his/her own heartbeat and can recognize it as faster than normal.
- Poor elasticity of skin – when pinched, the skin takes a long time in returning back to its position as compared to a hydrated person.
- Fever may occur in severe cases of dehydration but is not a common symptom.
- Seizure – In severe cases of dehydration, the patient can experience seizures and involuntary muscle movements.
- Not Drinking Enough Water and having a faulty diet that is mainly junk food.
- Electrolyte Imbalance is one of the most common reasons for dehydration.
- Underlying Diseases that cause dehydration are diabetes, hypertension, kidney problems and diarrhea.
- Excessive physical activity like by a sportsperson or laborer.
- Water loss from the body in case of vomiting, diarrhea and excessive sweating.
- Some medications like diuretics also cause chronic dehydration
- Heat Stroke due to constant exposure to high heat or sun in summers.
- Caffeine consumption, aerated drinks and alcohol also create dehydration in the body.
- Pregnancy & breastfeeding mothers can also become hydrated due to feeding the baby.
- Electrolyte Water Consumption – Best and the easiest is rebalancing the electrolytes in your body as it has lost electrolytes along with water through sweat and urine. A good electrolyte drink has sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium in good proportion.
- Stay Hydrated During Sports Activity – Our body continues to lose water during any kind of physical activity so taking water or electrolyte drink during and after a sports activity is very important to treat and prevent dehydration.
- Treatment for Heat Stroke Induced Dehydration – If heat stroke is the reason for dehydration then loosen the clothes, go near the air conditioner or fan, and spray water on the skin, don’t apply ice packs. After that have an electrolyte-based drink.
- IV Fluids – In severe cases of dehydration, IV fluids are given to achieve the results faster and prevent any complications.
- Change in Water Habits – As chronic dehydration takes time in getting treated completely. The patient must learn to develop good water habits. An app which reminds you to drink water and regular urinalysis and blood work up will help in treating chronic dehydration and prevent your body from losing minerals too.
- Preventive Measures – Avoid alcohol, caffeinated beverages and aerated drinks.
Is Chronic Dehydration Serious?
Yes, chronic dehydration can become serious as it can lead to kidney stone formation and hypertension or even seizures. That’s why diagnosing and treating dehydration is very important for good health and better energy levels.
Drink at least 8 glasses of water every day and include a good electrolyte drink in your routine if your level of physical activity is high. Eating plant-based food, water-rich fruits, especially citrus fruits are also recommended along with fruit juices, slushes and smoothies but don’t choose caffeinated and aerated beverages as they can dehydrate you further.
Excess of everything is bad, neither drink too much nor too little. A healthy diet, drinking water and electrolyte drinks post-exercise are important steps toward a well-hydrated body.
Drinking plain water when you have electrolyte imbalance can actually make you more dehydrated, you need to drink electrolyte water in order to rehydrate your body and replenish the lost minerals as well.
If you are experiencing any of the above-mentioned chronic dehydration symptoms then you must get yourself examined and start taking enough fluids to rehydrate your body and rebuild good dietary habits.