Water is a vital for life, not only of humans but of all living things on Earth. It is the base for all body fluids, including blood and digestive juices, it is necessary for absorption and transportation of nutrients and it is essential in waste elimination. The balance of fluids in the body is regulated by electrolytes. Those are minerals such as sodium, potassium and calcium.
An average adult daily looses about 10 cups of water through sweating, breathing and waste elimination. That water is normally replaced by nutrition, but when the amount of water lost exceeds the amount that is replaced, dehydration may occur.
Causes of dehydration
Sometimes the cause of dehydration can be simple and obvious. A person forgets or does not find time to drink water, for example during a busy day. People who are sick usually lack the appetite and refuse to drink water so dehydration may occur in that case as well.
There are situations in which drinkable water is not available, for example during hiking, camping or traveling. This is why it is recommended to always carry a bottle of water during those kinds of trips.
Diseases and conditions that may cause dehydration
Diarrhea is one of the most common causes of dehydration. Human body looses great amounts of water during diarrhea, especially children, who have less body weight. If the diarrhea is combined with vomiting, as it happens sometimes during stomach virus infections and similar diseases, the body looses even more fluids and electrolytes.
Fever is another significant cause of fluid loss. The higher the temperature, the more water is lost.
Increased urination can often lead to dehydration of a person does not replace the fluids properly. Increased urination can be a sign of diabetes mellitus or diabetes insipidus. Some medications can cause increased urination as well, like diuretics, blood pressure drugs and some psychiatric drugs.
A person who experienced a burn, especially if it is a third-degree burn, which affects deeper layers of the skin and tissue, is at risk of dehydrating. In those cases the dehydration can be life-threatening.
Some chronic diseases are known to cause dehydration. Untreated diabetes is one of them, along with kidney disease, adrenal gland disorder, alcoholism and cystic fibrosis.
People who sweat a lot during increased activity like exercise, physical work or similar, need to replace the fluids they lose. Hot and humid weather increases sweating, but it can happen in cold weather as well.
Babies and young children are especially at risk of dehydrating, because they have small bodies and a high turnover of fluids and electrolytes.
The lderly can also be at risk, because they generally eat and drink less and sometimes even forget to do it. Neglect or disability can affect their nutrition, leading possibly to dehydration.
Endurance athletes have to take special care of their fluid levels because for them it is very easy to dehydrate during exercise, especially in hot, humid areas or at high altitudes.