As machines need oil and fuel to function efficiently, the human body also needs its share of “fuel” to be working at peak efficiency. Not many appreciate the important role that water plays in keeping the body’s machinery at its tip-top shape.
When the water loss of the body is far greater compared to the quantity of water that the body ingests for a significant period of time, the resulting condition is what is known as dehydration. Dehydration is also a common result when talking about severe burns, hemorrhage, diarrhea, prolonged vomiting, diuretic abuse and profuse sweating.
Aside from these external factors, dehydration may also be related to endocrine conditions such as what happens in diabetes insipidus and diabetes mellitus.
What happens in dehydration is the water being loss is from the extracellular compartment. The imbalance of water between the ICF and ECF causes the fluids from the ICF to move to the ECF in an attempt to balance water content. This results to a reduced fluid volume in the circulating blood. In the process, water is not the only component lost but electrolytes are lost as well.
Signs of Dehydration
A deviation from the normal function of the body reflects in various notable changes. As the body losses more and more water, signs like sticky oral mucosa, increasing thirst, decreased urine output and dry flush skin emerges. If dehydration is prolonged, signs may include fever, weight loss and even mental confusion. One very serious and sometimes fatal consequence of dehydration is the decrease in blood volume, leading to hypovolemic shock.
A deficit in sodium ions mostly contributes to the drop in ECF osmolality. When this happens, several compensatory mechanisms are set in motion. The main action of the body is to inhibit the release of ADH or antidiuretic hormone. The inhibition results in less water reabsorbed and excess water quickly flushed out of the body in the form of urine.
Hypotonic hydration is a condition where the cells are overhydrated. This may be due to sudden extraordinary increase in the amount of water we drink or because of renal insufficiency. Whatever the reason is, the extracellular fluid becomes diluted. Although the sodium content in the ECF is normal, the amount of water is in excess leading to the hallmark sign of this condition which is hyponatremia. What hyponatremia does is it promotes osmosis towards the cell, which causes them to swell because they are becoming abnormally hydrated.
Signs of Hypotonic Hydration
As the size of the cell swells, metabolic disturbances kick in. This is then evidenced by muscular cramping, nausea, vomiting and then cerebral edema. The last one, cerebral edema, is a serious condition because hypotonic hydration is damaging to the neurons. When not attended to, cerebral edema can lead to convulsion, progressing to coma and then eventually death will follow.
Edema is the accumulation of fluid in the interstitial spaces which leads to swelling of the tissue. This condition may be caused by any reaction that makes the flow of fluid outside of the blood and then hinders the return of such fluids.
An ongoing inflammatory response increases the permeability of capillaries. As the permeability of capillaries increase, fluid is being lost into the interstitial spaces. Although permeability is increased, the return of fluid back to the blood is hindered since not only fluids are forced out of the blood but also plasma proteins and clotting proteins.
The most serious problems that result from edema has something to do with the cardiovascular system. As the fluid leaves the confinement of the blood vessels, the blood volume and pressure goes down and the efficiency of circulation is severely impaired.