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Undiagnosed dehydration may have serious consequences


As some Oregon residents may know, drinking enough water is important to maintaining a healthy physical state. However, dehydration can occur and cause worrisome symptoms that can interfere with daily function. Knowing if symptoms are related to dehydration or not requires an in-depth knowledge of how dehydration happens and how it can be diagnosed.

Many older individuals become dehydrated due to several factors, including reduced thirst response. Some older individuals do not eat and drink properly, and this behavior may also lead to dehydration. In addition, due to loss of kidney function, the kidneys of older individuals may no longer concentrate the urine properly, so excretion is higher than it should be, leading to dehydration. Certain medications may interfere with keeping proper fluid hemostasis, causing dehydration. Monitoring the person’s symptoms is necessary in such cases.

Symptoms that are considered pathognomonic of dehydration include fatigue and excessive sleepiness, thirst, dry skin and a dry buccal cavity. On physical exam, a physician may see a loss of skin turgor, and the skin appears less filled out than it should.

Ways to determine if an individual is dehydrated include both urine and blood tests. Of the two, blood tests appear to be more accurate, according to a study done in Britain. Of 338 male and female subjects aged 65 and older, urine tests were not as good at catching dehydration in older individuals since these tests rely on normal kidney function to work properly.

Failure to diagnose dehydration may lead to health issues including heat stroke. The patient may require hospitalization and additional medical treatment to recover. An attorney may review medical records and file a malpractice lawsuit to recover damages.