There is a stark difference between mild dehydration and chronic dehydration. Mild dehydration is a temporary condition where your body experiences a slight water deficit, which can lead to manageable consequences.. You go to a doctor, who examines you and provides appropriate treatments, in the form of intravenous fluids, oral rehydration solutions, and medications. 

On the other hand, chronic dehydration is different and requires an in-depth insight into its causes, diagnosis, treatment options, and potential complications. 

What is Chronic Dehydration?

Chronic dehydration is a persistent state of insufficient water intake, where the body consistently lacks the necessary amount of water to maintain optimal function. Gradually, the body gets used to inadequate water, which brings lasting effects on various bodily functions, including digestion, circulation, and temperature regulation.

What are the Causes of Chronic Dehydration?

There are numerous causes of chronic dehydration, which vary from person to person, environment, and other factors. Some common causes of chronic dehydration include:

  • Inadequate water consumption
  • Excessive consumption of diuretics (such as caffeine or alcohol)
  • Certain medical conditions affect the body’s ability to retain water. 
  • People living in extremely hot and cold weather can also experience chronic dehydration

The warmer climate can make sense, but why cold and snowy weather? Actually, some of them don’t drink enough water and a better approach for individuals residing in colder regions is to consciously increase their water intake, as they may not naturally consume enough to remain optimally hydrated. Therefore, they try to make do with less water, which results in a prolonged dehydrated state. 

Symptoms of Chronic Dehydration

Symptoms of chronic dehydration may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Dry skin
  • Constipation
  • Dark urine
  • Reduced frequency of urination.

Long-term consequences of untreated chronic dehydration include:

  • Kidney stones
  • Urinary tract infections

If you suspect you are suffering from chronic dehydration, it is important to consult a healthcare professional to determine the underlying cause and appropriate treatment. 

How can Chronic Dehydration be Diagnosed?

Diagnosing chronic dehydration typically involves a combination of a patient’s medical history, a physical examination, and laboratory tests. Here are some steps a doctor may take to diagnose chronic dehydration:

Medical History

The doctor will ask about the patient’s fluid intake, diet, exercise habits, and any medical conditions that may contribute to dehydration. They may also inquire about medications or supplements the patient is taking, as some can have a diuretic effect or influence the body’s ability to retain water.

Physical Examination

The doctor will examine the patient for signs of dehydration, such as dry skin, poor skin turgor (skin elasticity), sunken eyes, dry mouth, and low blood pressure. They may also check the patient’s pulse and heart rate.

Urine Test

A urine sample may be collected to assess color, concentration, and specific gravity. Dark, concentrated urine with a high specific gravity can indicate dehydration.

Blood Tests

Blood tests can help determine electrolyte imbalances, kidney function, and other markers that may indicate dehydration. For example, elevated blood urea nitrogen (BUN) levels, increased hematocrit, and high serum osmolality can suggest dehydration.

Vital Signs

The doctor may monitor the patient’s vital signs, including blood pressure, heart rate, and body temperature, as abnormal values can be indicative of dehydration.

If chronic dehydration is suspected, the doctor will determine the underlying cause and recommend appropriate treatment, which may include increasing water intake, making dietary changes, adjusting medications, or treating underlying medical conditions contributing to the dehydration.

Risks Associated with Chronic Dehydration

Chronic dehydration can have various negative effects on the body, leading to several health risks if left untreated. According to Pubmed, the search engine for biomedical literature, maintained by the United States National Library of Medicine (NLM) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), research is still underway to discover additional side effects and complications that chronic dehydration can cause in one’s body.  Some risks associated with chronic dehydration include:

  • Kidney stones
  • Urinary tract infections (UTIs)
  • Constipation
  • Decreased cognitive function
  • Heat-related illnesses
  • Electrolyte imbalances
  • Reduced kidney function
  • Hypovolemic shock
  • Impaired physical performance

It is important to note that every individual is not bound to face the exact same consequences as mentioned above. The complications may vary, depending on the individual’s case.

To minimize the risk of these complications, it is essential to maintain adequate hydration by consuming enough water and monitoring fluid intake, particularly during exercise and in hot environments. If you suspect you are suffering from chronic dehydration, consult a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan.

How long does it take to recover from chronic dehydration?

The time it takes to recover from chronic dehydration can vary depending on the severity of the dehydration and other individual factors such as age, overall health, and lifestyle habits. Generally, with consistent hydration habits, one can expect to make a complete recovery from chronic dehydration within a matter of days to a few weeks.

How much water should you drink daily?

Prioritizing adequate water intake is essential to avoid the risk of chronic dehydration and maintain optimal health. To stay hydrated, the daily adequate intake of water for adults is 6 to 8-ounce glasses.

It is important to note that these recommendations include fluid from all sources, such as beverages and food. Furthermore, individual needs may vary depending on factors like age, activity level, and health status.

Does Chronic Dehydration Brain Damage?

Brain is generally resilient and can recover from temporary dehydration when the body is properly rehydrated. However, chronic or severe dehydration may have long-lasting effects such as cognitive dysfunction, impaired memory, and reduced attention span.

Final words

Chronic dehydration is not a condition of low concern. If you are experiencing chronic dehydration, it’s important to seek medical advice from a healthcare professional to determine the appropriate course of treatment and to monitor your progress.

Our healthcare providers at Euromed Clinic are providing out-patients consultations to all those tackling acute and chronic dehydration. If you want to book your appointment, feel free to call us at +971 4 394 5422, or simply fill out and submit the following form.