What is fluid volume deficit?

Fluid volume deficit is a condition when fluid loss exceeds intake and electrolytes in the human body become unbalanced. Cells do not have enough water to function properly when a fluid volume deficit develops from blood loss, vomiting, or diarrhea. Excessive sweating and high fever can also lead to a deficit as a result of dehydration.

Rapid blood loss is the most common cause of fluid volume deficit and can occur from an accident or during surgical procedures. Operating room nurses commonly monitor blood pressure and other physical signs so that fluid can be replaced, as needed, to maintain adequate blood circulation and oxygen content. If a fluid volume deficit becomes severe, internal organs can shut down and stop working.

During the first stage of dehydration, thirst and a dry mouth may be the only symptoms. Mild dehydration that results in a deficit of fluid loss can usually be treated quickly by drinking water. As dehydration progresses, a person may become irritable, weak, or dizzy. Sometimes the skin will feel dry and warm to the touch, and may appear red. Decreased urine output and dark urine are other signs of mild dehydration, along with a headache.

Liquids are used to treat the condition and can be taken orally or intravenously by people who are unable to swallow or who are unconscious. You can buy electrolyte solutions formulated to replace the water and salt your body needs to combat dehydration. Coconut water also contains electrolytes similar to properties in blood plasma and can rehydrate the body. If diarrhea or vomiting is causing a fluid volume deficit, medications may be given to treat those ailments.

Severe dehydration can be a serious medical condition that leads to seizures and heart failure. The patient may go into shock and have muscle spasms when the blood pressure drops too low. Loss of elasticity in the skin and a weak and rapid pulse are additional symptoms of severe fluid volume deficit. A person suffering from severe dehydration is usually hospitalized and given intravenous fluids until fluid levels return to normal.

Prevention of fluid volume deficit is especially important in young children and older adults, especially adults in nursing homes. Babies can become dehydrated when illnesses cause fever, vomiting, or diarrhea. Older people living in nursing homes may suffer from dementia and forget to drink enough water to stay healthy. They may also use medications, such as diuretics, that cause increased urination.

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