Medical Conditions

Fluid Volume Deficit: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment Plans

fluid volume deficit: man holding a water bottle
We all know how important hydration is to overall health, but it can be hard to get and retain enough fluids, especially when we’re busy. What’s worse, it’s incredibly easy for us to lose water and electrolytes that our bodies need to perform properly. In fact, simple things like working outdoors in high temperatures or suffering from a cold and flu can dramatically alter our hydration levels, causing negative side effects.

When we don’t get enough fluids and electrolytes, we can encounter dehydration and fluid volume deficits that alter our mental state and decrease our performance. Besides dehydration, fluid volume deficit is among the most common conditions that result in a loss of vital electrolytes and water our bodies need to perform optimally. Here, you’ll learn what a fluid volume deficit is, what causes it, and what symptoms to watch out for. We’ll also show you why an oral rehydration solution like DripDrop ORS is an important part of any fluid volume deficit and dehydration care plan.

What Is Fluid Volume Deficit?
fluid volume deficit: emergency response team helping a man

Also known as fluid volume deficiency or hypovolemia, fluid volume deficit occurs when your body loses extracellular fluid — body fluid that is found outside of cells throughout your body. This fluid makes up around one-third of our body weight. It’s composed of a variety of different types of fluid, including spinal cord fluid, blood plasma, fluid that cushions cells, and lymphatic fluid containing white blood cells.

This fluid contains vital electrolytes and essential minerals that enable your body to function properly. In fact, electrolytes are essential when it comes to body temperature regulation, muscle movement, sending neurotransmitter signals, and maintaining adequate blood pH levels. When you lose fluid and electrolytes, your body will enter a fluid volume deficit, and you may experience symptoms, including headache and confusion.

There are three main types of fluid volume deficit: isotonic, hypertonic, and hypotonic. Isotonic is the most common and occurs when you lose equal amounts of fluid and electrolytes. Hypertonic occurs when you lose more water than electrolytes and hypotonic —the rarest type — refers to a greater loss of electrolytes compared to water.

Fluid volume deficit is similar to dehydration, though there are small distinctions. In scientific terms, fluid volume deficit refers to the loss of both water and electrolytes, while the term “dehydration” is used when the body loses more water than electrolytes like sodium.

However, when you’re dehydrated, you still lose some electrolytes, impacting your performance and overall health. That’s why it’s important to address the loss of electrolytes experienced during a fluid volume deficit and dehydration by using an oral rehydration solution like DripDrop ORS.

Symptoms of Fluid Volume Deficit
A man checking pulse of another man

When you experience a fluid volume deficit, your body can’t function like it normally does. As a result, you’ll experience a wide range of symptoms that can affect everything from your mental state to your heart rate.

Here are the most common symptoms of fluid volume deficit:

  • Changes in awareness and mental state
  • Weakness or tiredness
  • Weak pulse or dizziness
  • Thirst
  • Weight loss (typically only in severe cases of electrolyte and water loss)
  • Dark urine or low urine output (known as oliguria)
  • Dry mucous membranes including your mouth, nose, and eyes
  • Reduced skin turgor or elasticity
  • Orthostatic hypotension (low blood pressure that occurs when moving to a standing position)
  • Capillary refill of fewer than three seconds

In severe cases where more than 20% of your body’s extracellular fluid is lost, you may experience hypovolemic shock. This condition produces serious symptoms, including fast, shallow breathing, and loss of consciousness. Left untreated, serious cases can lead to heart failure, coma, alkalosis, and death.

Causes of Fluid Volume Deficit
Silhouette of man working

A fluid volume deficit occurs when your body loses fluid, which can occur in a variety of ways. You can lose fluid when you urinate too often, when you sweat excessively, and when you injure yourself. Fluid loss is far more common than you may expect and can affect even the healthiest individuals.

Here are the main causes of hypovolemia:

  • Vomiting, diarrhea, fever, and infection
  • Excessive sweating
  • Heat-related illness
  • Excessive urination— known as polyuria, which can be caused by renal disease, renal failure, adrenal insufficiency, and overuse of diuretics
  • Blood loss from wounds, injuries, and bleeding disorders
  • Severe burns
  • Decreased or inadequate fluid intake

When you’re sick and are vomiting or have diarrhea, you lose extracellular fluid rapidly. If you don’t stay hydrated and can’t keep fluids down, you’ll begin to experience the symptoms of a fluid volume deficit. Excessive sweating can also lead to fluid loss. This can occur when you work outdoors in high temperatures or if you have a condition that causes excessive sweating.

Injuries like bleeding wounds and severe burns can also lead to fluid loss. That’s because blood transports fluid and electrolytes throughout your body. You can also experience a fluid volume deficit if you have internal bleeding where extracellular fluid is sent where it doesn’t normally belong.

This is known as third spacing and often presents symptoms similar to dehydration, including increased heart rate, high blood pressure, and decreased urination. In addition, your skin plays a key role in preventing fluid loss. This means severe burns make it easier for your body to lose fluid.

Fluid volume deficits occur not only when you lose fluids and electrolytes but also when you don’t consume enough of them. This is especially common for seniors, young children, and infants who are more susceptible to dehydration and have a harder time maintaining adequate fluid intake.

Fluid Volume Deficit Diagnosis
fluid volume deficit: Nurse checking blood pressure

A doctor can help diagnose a fluid volume deficit by conducting lab tests that evaluate blood urea nitrogen (BUN) ratios, urine specific gravity and osmolality, and hematocrit — the number of red blood cells in your plasma. The nursing diagnosis begins with a check of your vital signs and then the series of lab tests above. Depending on the tests ordered and your lab values, your doctor can identify what type of fluid volume deficiency you have.

As fluid volume deficits can cause a buildup or loss of certain serum electrolytes, it can lead to other disorders which are important to detect. These lab tests can identify additional deficiencies, including hyperkalemia and hypokalemia — potassium disorders — as well as hyponatremia and hypernatremia, which refer to low or high levels of sodium in the bloodstream.

The best treatment for fluid volume deficit is to address the electrolyte imbalance and water loss by using an oral rehydration solution. In severe cases, you may need nursing intervention and critical care support, including intravenous fluid therapy or a blood transfusion.

Increasing oral fluid and electrolyte consumption can help offset the lost fluid volume, but not all options are created equal. Your body needs a precise ratio of electrolytes and fluid to function properly. Oral rehydration solutions like DripDrop ORS contain these precise ratios, whereas sports drinks, juices, and water don’t have enough electrolytes to address deficiencies.

Manage Dehydration and Fluid Volume Deficit With DripDrop ORS
Drip Drop product

DripDrop ORS is a proven fluid replacement alternative for treating mild to moderate dehydration. It's powerful enough to use in extreme circumstances but safe enough for everyday use.

DripDrop ORS was developed by a doctor on a mission to defeat life-threatening dehydration. The patented formula provides medically relevant electrolyte levels, improving on the World Health Organization’s Oral Rehydration Solution (ORS) standards with its delicious taste. The result is a medically viable ORS that also tastes great.

By comparison, sports drinks contain about one-third the electrolytes of DripDrop ORS, and twice as much sugar, making them a far less effective remedy for fluid volume deficits and dehydration.

When you're in a state of dehydration or experiencing a fluid volume deficit, no amount of water is enough. Your body needs the perfect balance of sodium and glucose to help absorption. With the precisely balanced ratio, you can replenish vital electrolytes and fluids to relieve dehydration quickly. Plus, DripDrop ORS supplies vitamins like zinc, potassium, and magnesium, which are essential to support your overall health.

For cases of mild to moderate dehydration, DripDrop ORS is a fast, effective, and great tasting remedy. Its convenient packaging allows you to have DripDrop ORS when you need it, where you need it. Get started with a trial or our most popular multi-flavor pouch for dehydration relief fast.

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