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 usually 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 fluid can be replaced, as needed, to maintain proper blood circulation and oxygen content. If the deficit becomes severe, internal organs can shut down and cease functioning.
During the early stage of dehydration, thirst and a dry mouth might be the only symptoms. Mild dehydration that results in a fluid loss deficit can generally be treated quickly by drinking water. As dehydration progresses, a person might become irritable, weak or dizzy. Sometimes the skin will feel dry and warm to the touch, and it may appear flushed. Decreased urine output and dark urine are other signs of mild dehydration, along with headache.
Fluids are used to treat the condition and may be taken orally or given intravenously to people who cannot swallow or who are unconscious. Electrolyte solutions can be purchased that are formulated to replace the water and salt the body needs to combat dehydration. Coconut water also contains electrolytes similar to the properties in blood plasma and may rehydrate the body. If diarrhea or vomiting is causing a fluid volume deficit, medication might be administered to address those ailments.
Severe dehydration can be a serious medical condition that results in convulsions and heart failure. The patient might go into shock and suffer muscle spasms when blood pressure falls too low. Loss of elasticity in the skin and a weak and fast pulse are additional symptoms of severe fluid volume deficit. A person suffering from serious dehydration is usually hospitalized and given fluids intravenously until fluid levels return to normal.
Preventing fluid volume deficit is especially important in young children and older adults, especially adults in nursing homes. Babies can become dehydrated when illnesses cause fevers, vomiting or diarrhea. The elderly who live in nursing homes may suffer from dementia and forget to drink enough water to stay healthy. They may also use medication, such as diuretics, that produces increased urination.