Overhydration: Symptoms, Effects, Treatment And Prevention

Overhydration: Symptoms, Effects, Treatment And Prevention

We are advised so often that we drink water that we rarely wonder if we need to drink so much. If you are a healthy person and you drink about 8 cups a day, you can not become dehydrated, unless you are walking through a desert for 10 hours without a break. We all know that water is vital for health and for all bodily functions. If we are dehydrated, we feel slow, tired and our body has a hard time getting rid of toxins and waste products. Then, of course, it is easy to overlook the problems that occur with overhydration, since people hardly believe that this is possible.

Do not underestimate the consequences of overhydration (drinking too much water), as it will destabilize all body functions. The main concern is that the balance between the water and sodium content in the bloodstream is very delicate. If you are drinking too much water, the sodium content in the blood will be diluted, since the relationship between water and sodium will be much more favorable to water.

This condition, in which the sodium content is too low per liter of blood, is called hyponatremia. Sodium is an electrolyte, which regulates the amount of water present in each cell. There is another type of hyponatremia in which the cells retain too much water. If you imagine that every cell in your body needs a certain amount of sodium to work properly, this would mean that in order to achieve this amount of sodium, it will be necessary to extract and retain more water in the cell during hyponatremia.

Therefore, to ensure you avoid overhydration, you should know the symptoms and signs of this condition. This way you can control your water intake much better.

In general, people who are at risk of overhydration are athletes, participants in long marathons and so on. They tend to consume much more water, which is then retained in the cells, but they lose more sodium ions through perspiration, thus diluting the remaining sodium in the bloodstream, which leads to hyponatremia.

Overhydration: Symptoms, Effects, Treatment And Prevention

Other people affected by this condition are people with kidney problems, so the kidneys can not properly expel water from the body. Thus, water accumulates rapidly in cells and leads to water intoxication. This syndrome is called inappropriate antidiuretic hormone syndrome. Older people may also have trouble discharging water efficiently, so age is also a factor.

List of overhydration symptoms

  • Headaches
  • Confusion
  • Vomiting / Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Fast breathing
  • Loss of appetite
  • Irritability / restlessness
  • Seizures
  • Muscle cramps
  • Loss of consciousness and coma

Initially, a person suffering from hyponatremia will exhibit the first symptoms listed. They will feel confused, dizzy and have a slight headache, which will get worse unless some countermeasures are taken. The affected person will feel nauseous and start vomiting. It is easy to overlook these symptoms, as they are very similar to flu symptoms. As the condition progresses, the person will begin to feel disoriented and other cognitive and mental changes will occur.

Overhydration: Symptoms, Effects, Treatment And Prevention

The most severe and serious symptoms, which will go beyond the disease, are muscle cramps and general muscle weakness, painful spasms, which lead to seizures and even to the most severe loss of consciousness and coma. Often, some people experience extreme swelling of the extremities (mainly the legs) and their lungs fill with fluid. This happens due to the excess blood volume.

Often, the change in behavior is accompanied by screaming, irrational behavior, delirium and loss of attention. Some patients even report blurred vision and paralysis (due to muscle cramps) of one of their bodies. Often, they can breathe quickly, which leads to weakness and fatigue in general. In rare situations, blood pressure may be higher than normal, which can also be a useful indication for overhydration.

Effects of overhydration.

The effects of water intoxication are closely related to the symptoms. Here is a short list of these effects:

  • Digestion problems
  • The changes are brain function.
  • Fluctuation of mood and energy.
  • Acidosis

Digestion problems

The effect of overhydration in the stomach is that it gets too full of fluids, as it prepares to digest food. Sometimes, you may mistakenly assume that there are foods present for digestion and the person begins to feel nauseated and will vomit from time to time. Because the stomach is full of fluid / water, the individual may even lose their appetite. After all, if you feel nauseous, you definitely have no appetite.

Since the body is not able to handle too much liquid at the same time, it will process it much slower and slower, therefore, more water will remain in the stomach and the result will be vomiting. This is another reason why people are advised not to drink too much water after suffering from dehydration. Drinking excess water will inevitably result in vomiting and additional dehydration. In the case of overhydration, in fact it can slightly alleviate the problem of water intoxication.

Changes in brain function.

The effect of overhydration in the brain can have serious repercussions. One of them is that, since during sodium hyponatremia sodium particles are less compared to the amount of water present in the blood, brain cells fill up much faster with fluids.

Therefore, the brain cells will not only be filled with too much water, but the sodium content will be less than what the brain cells need for their proper functioning. This leads to mild to severe headaches (depending on the stage of overhydration and how advanced it has progressed), to convulsions and coma. Swelling of the brain can be a very dangerous condition, which in some rare cases can even lead to death.

You should carefully observe your conditions and if you have any strange cognitive or mental irregularities, in addition to being an athlete or if you know you have kidney problems, you should visit the doctor quickly. You should not wait until these conditions get worse.

Fluctuation of mood and energy.

Hyponatremia also affects the individual’s mood and energy levels. At times, you may feel lethargic and tired, while at other times you feel irritable and restless. Often, these two extremes can occur at the same time, which can often be related to mood swings. Not only that, but you will also feel muscle spasms, muscle pain and general weakness in the body.


This is a condition in which the blood and tissues are in a very high acid state. This can be very damaging to organs, since high levels of acid are burning tissues and can damage even the heart and brain. When the body is filled with too much water, inflammation is activated and is closely related to acidosis.

Other effects of overhydration / hyponatremia are also anemia and cyanosis. In this latter condition, oxygen levels in the bloodstream and other organs decrease significantly and can also damage the brain. Hemorrhage is also a common effect of water intoxication.

What are the dangers of overhydration?

As already explained above, the dangers of overhydration are related to the body’s ability to get rid of excess fluid. If that is not possible, all body functions will be affected. There are certain groups of people who may be more prone to water retention.

We mentioned athletes and people with kidney problems. For example, inadequate renal function will lead to water retention, therefore, it will keep fluids in all parts of the body and all cells. This can lead to serious health problems, such as swelling, edema (inflammation of the brain), loss of consciousness, mood swings as already mentioned and other similar symptoms.

Overhydration: Symptoms, Effects, Treatment And Prevention

Older people may also be at risk because their sodium intake may have decreased slightly with time and age. The balance of electrolytes can be affected and the more water they drink, the more risk they run of suffering from water poisoning. With age, heart problems can be a big problem. After all, all cells and tissues can swell, and this can lead to heart failure and heart attacks.

Some even more serious health conditions can occur, including a stroke. While the small capillaries in the brain swell, some can completely block blood flow, causing serious brain damage and can even be fatal.

People who have certain hormonal problems with the thyroid and / or the adrenal gland also have a high risk of a lower sodium content. People who follow strict diets, avoiding salty foods are also at risk. Another group are people who are not accustomed to warm weather and when they move to a climate that is not familiar to the rhythm of their body, swelling and water retention can very quickly occur. The body will be unbalanced until it acclimatizes.

How can overhydration be prevented and treated?

If you suspect that you have had too much water during the last hour or two, you should stop drinking for a few more hours. If you experience any of the above symptoms, you should stop taking fluids. In addition, along with reducing the amount of water, you could eat some salty food. The salt will replenish the lost electrolytes and will add some balance between the electrolyte content and water. This treatment is best suited for athletes and healthy people who simply had too much water for a short period of time.

When it comes to people with kidney diseases or hormonal imbalances, they are advised to reduce the intake of sodium (salty foods), since water is retained in the tissues thanks to sodium. These people may also be recommended to try drinks or diuretic medications to help their body eliminate fluids.

If you could not control the nausea and vomiting, you may need to visit a hospital. You will be given fluids intravenously to balance electrolyte levels. Chronic hyponatremia is a rare condition (unless it is caused by one of the health reasons we mentioned, such as kidney problems, hormonal imbalance, etc.) but it can be treated with hormone therapy to keep the electrolytes in balance.

Overhydration: Symptoms, Effects, Treatment And Prevention

It is very important that you visit a doctor if your condition continues for more than a day, since you may have a health problem, which hurts the body’s natural way of eliminating water. The doctor will determine the underlying problem and will be treated with the medications in a way that is appropriate for your medical condition. You should not try to treat this condition yourself unless a doctor has seen and examined you.

In addition, you may have to visit an endocrinologist in cases where you have a hormonal imbalance. If the lack or excess of certain hormones is what is causing the overhydration / hyponatremia, then an endocrinologist can prescribe hormones to regulate their normal production in the body. It is strongly recommended that you do not delay your visit to your general practitioner, as your situation may get worse and, in cases where you may lose consciousness, you may not be able to control yourself. Do not let the opportunity decide for you. The sooner you get to your GP, the better.

You may also wonder how to make sure that this condition does not happen in the first place. The best way to keep water intoxication at bay is to simply drink water only when you feel that you need it. Your body knows best when it needs water and will give you certain signals: thirst, dry mouth, darker colored urine, etc.

If you observe these symptoms, then the body definitely needs water and may even be slightly dehydrated. While your urine is yellow (not nearly pale and colorless), you will be in the safe area. Also, do not drink excessive amounts of water at one time, eg. One gallon for 1-2 hours. Surprising as it may be, there are cases in which people drank such quantities of water.

You can also see how often you visit the bathroom. If you go to the bathroom too often (for example, every 10 to 15 minutes) you should stop drinking water until your body can balance fluids and sodium levels. Also, if you are planning a little training, it is a good idea to eat a banana or two so that you can have enough potassium (electrolyte) in your body to maintain normal water levels in your body. Eat the banana not earlier than 30 minutes before training.

In the event that you plan to train in hot conditions, for more than an hour, you should resort to sports drinks. They have enough sodium and potassium to keep the body’s water in balance.

Again, if you are a healthy person, you can eat salty foods before and after intense training, and drink a normal amount of water (only if you feel the need to do so, do not drink just because you think your body needs it).

Another consideration is to avoid medications such as aspirin or ibuprofen (analgesics) before, during or shortly after an extended training / marathon. The reason is that these medications can interfere with the normal function of the kidneys and, as we read above, people with kidney problems run the risk of retaining water. The kidneys will not be able to filter the water and remove excess fluid from the body.

In those cases, when you decide to do a long marathon or if you are an athlete and spend hours training, you can regulate your fluid intake, measuring how much you are sweating and then replenish that lost liquid with sports drinks. .

Since we lose electrolytes and sodium through our sweat, athletes are especially prone to losing these minerals. It is vital that they replenish both fluid and electrolytes as they train. In certain historical cases, people who ran a marathon for several hours had died from excessive hydration because they did not drink sodium along with the water they drank. In other similar cases, they were drinking too many sports drinks, which leads to water retention and can potentially lead to brain inflammation and edema (which can also be fatal conditions).

Overhydration: Symptoms, Effects, Treatment And Prevention

And, of course, to make sure you can prevent hyponatremia, you should know your health status and consult your doctor about how to prevent it from happening. They will make tests and possibly prescribe specific medications for your situation. It is also important to keep in mind that if you feel insatiable thirst all the time, no matter how much water you drink, you should consult your doctor immediately. There is a risk that you have diabetes.

Due to the body’s inability to control insulin levels, you will feel excessive thirst all the time, due to unnatural sugar levels in your bloodstream. This is a very serious condition and you should not ignore these symptoms.

As long as you are aware of the needs, symptoms and signals of your body that you are sending, you should be able to keep overhydration at bay. It is potentially a fatal condition, so you should consider your water intake and your medical condition. If you take all the preventive measures we are talking about, you must be sure and the risk of overhydration / hyponatremia is very low.


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