What causes dehydration?

Dehydration can be caused by not drinking enough water and fluids. Dehydration can also be the result of conditions that cause the body to lose too much water, such as excessive diarrhea, serious burns, fever, and high elevation. Dehydration is a symptom of a wide variety of underlying diseases, disorders and conditions, such as aldosterone deficiency, type 1 diabetes, and kidney failure.

Common conditions that cause dehydration

Dehydration can be caused by not drinking enough fluids to replace those lost through everyday activities and normal body functions, such as the moisture lost through breathing, urinating and sweating. Fluids can also be lost through everyday habits and environmental conditions including:

  • Alcohol consumption or intoxication

  • Excessive heat, which can lead to heat exhaustion and heat stroke

  • Exercise and sports that cause excessive perspiration, such as hockey, marathon races, and soccer

  • Hemorrhage (bleeding)
  • High elevation

  • Low humidity

Conditions involving excessive urination that cause dehydration

Conditions that cause the body to lose too much fluid through excessive urination include:

  • Diabetes

  • Diabetic ketoacidosis

  • Hyperosmolar hyperglycemic nonketotic syndrome

  • Treatment with diuretic medications such as furosemide (Lasix)

Conditions involving vomiting, diarrhea and fever that cause dehydration

Many conditions can lead to dehydration through vomiting and diarrhea with or without fever. Some common conditions include:

What are the risk factors for dehydration?

Health care professionals have identified certain risk factors that can make you more prone to dehydration. Risk factors include:

  • Advanced age (older than 65)
  • Diarrhea, fever or vomiting
  • Disease, disorder or condition that involves excessive urine output such as diabetes
  • Recreational drug use (cocaine, meth, ecstasy)
  • Young age (generally six years and younger)

Reducing your risk of dehydration

An adequate amount of water, or good hydration, is necessary to prevent dehydration. In an otherwise healthy person, dehydration can be prevented by drinking about eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day. If you have a disease, disorder or condition that causes you to lose too much water, you can best lower your risk of dehydration by seeking regular medical care and following the treatment plan you and your health care professional design specifically for you.


What is dehydration?

Dehydration is an abnormal condition in which the body's cells are deprived of an adequate amount of water. Water makes up about 70% of the muscles, organs and tissues in the body and is crucial to many of the body's processes.

Dehydration negatively affects important bodily functions, including toxin elimination, delivery of nutrients and oxygen to the cells of the body, energy p... Read more about dehydrationintroduction


What are the symptoms of dehydration?

Symptoms of dehydration vary between individuals depending on the underlying cause. Dehydration symptoms can be acute and appear relatively suddenly, such as during or after an illness involving repeated vomiting and diarrhea. Dehydration can also be ongoing and chronic, such as when a person does not drink enough fluids b... Read more about dehydrationsymptoms


How is dehydration treated?

The first step in treating dehydration is prevention. For healthy adults, this includes drinking eight 8-ounce glasses of water every day. Water needs will be greater for certain people, such as athletes or people who live at high altitudes or in hot, dry climates. Athletes may benefit from drinking a solution, such as Gatorade, that is fortified with the electrolytes that are lost through swea... Read more about dehydrationtreatments

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Aug 9, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Metabolic System