What is hypovolemia?

Hypovolemia is a decrease in the volume of blood in your body, which can be due to blood loss or loss of body fluids. Blood loss can result from external injuries, internal bleeding, or certain obstetric emergencies. Diarrhea and vomiting are common causes of body fluid loss. Fluid can also be lost as a result of large burns, excessive perspiration, or diuretics. Inadequate fluid intake can also cause hypovolemia.

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At the onset of hypovolemia, the mouth, nose, and other mucous membranes dry out, the skin loses its elasticity, and urine output decreases. Initially, the body compensates for the volume loss by increasing the heart rate, increasing the strength of heart contractions, and constricting blood vessels in the periphery while preserving blood flow to the brain, heart and kidneys. With continuing volume loss, the body loses its ability to compensate and blood pressure drops. At this point, the heart is unable to pump enough blood to vital organs to meet their needs and tissue damage is likely to occur.

Hypovolemic shock occurs when a fifth of the blood volume is lost. Symptoms may include cold, clammy skin, paleness, rapid breathing and heart rate, weakness, decreased or absent urine output, sweating, anxiety, confusion, and unconsciousness. Hypovolemic shock is a medical emergency requiring immediate intervention.

Treatment of hypovolemia depends upon its severity. When severe, intravenous fluids and possibly blood transfusions may be necessary to rapidly raise blood volume. Medications may be used to increase blood pressure and stabilize heart rate and strength of heart contractions. Any underlying cause of hypovolemia, such as injury, must also be treated to prevent ongoing fluid losses.

In some circumstances, body fluid loss, such as that caused by vomiting and diarrhea, can be reversed with increased fluid consumption and hypovolemia averted. In other cases, however, blood or fluid losses may be severe enough to warrant medical intervention. Hypovolemic shock is a medical emergency. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) for serious symptoms, such as dry mucous membranes, loss of skin elasticity, cold and clammy skin, pale skin or pallor, rapid breathing and heart rate, weakness, decreased or absent urine output, sweating, confusion, or unconsciousness.


What are the symptoms of hypovolemia?

Initial symptoms of hypovolemia can include dry mucous membranes, loss of skin elasticity, and decreased urine output. As hypovolemia progresses, more serious symptoms develop. Hypovolemia may develop gradually or occur suddenly.... Read more about hypovolemiasymptoms


What causes hypovolemia?

Conditions that cause blood or body fluid loss can cause hypovolemia, as can inadequate fluid intake. If persistent or severe, diarrhea and vomiting can deplete body fluids. Fluids can also be lost as a result of large burns or excessive sweating. Use of diuretics can result in fluid loss by increasing urine output. Blood loss may result from external injury or internal bleeding. Certain pregnancy complications can also cause blood loss leading to hypovolemia.... Read more about hypovolemiacauses


How is hypovolemia treated?

The main goals of the treatment of hypovolemia are controlling your loss of fluid or blood, replacing those fluids and blood, and restoring your circulation. If your hypovolemia resulted from injury, your health care provider may take steps to prevent further injury. These may involve stabilization of the spine, splinting injuries, keeping the airway clear, providing chest compressions and ventilation if necessary, elevation of your legs if safe to do so, and reducing ongoing blood loss as much as possible. In some cases, emergency surgery may be needed to treat hypovolemia that is due to trauma.... Read more about hypovolemiatreatments

Medical Reviewer: All content has been reviewed by board-certified physicians under the direction of Rich Klasco, M.D., FACEP. Last Annual Review Date: May 2, 2011 Copyright: © Copyright 2011 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: Heart, Blood and Circulation