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Fluid imbalance

Water imbalance; Fluid imbalance - dehydration; Fluid buildup; Fluid overload; Volume overload; Loss of fluids; Edema - fluid imbalance; Hyponatremia - fluid imbalance; Hypernatremia - fluid imbalance; Hypokalemia - fluid imbalance; Hyperkalemia - fluid imbalance

Every part of your body needs water to function. When you are healthy, your body is able to balance the amount of water that enters or leaves your body.

A fluid imbalance may occur when you lose more water or fluid than your body can take in. It can also occur when you take in more water or fluid than your body is able to get rid of.

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Causes

Your body is constantly losing water through breathing, sweating, and urinating. If you do not take in enough fluids or water, you become dehydrated.

Your body may also have a hard time getting rid of fluids. As a result, excess fluid builds up in the body. This is called fluid overload (volume overload). This can lead to edema (excess fluid in the skin and tissues).

Many medical problems can cause fluid imbalance:

Often, a high or low level of sodium or potassium is present as well.

Medicines can also affect fluid balance. The most common are water pills (diuretics) to treat blood pressure.

Treatment

Treatment depends on the specific condition that is causing the fluid imbalance.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider if you or your child has signs of dehydration or swelling, in order to prevent more serious complications.

Related Information

Swelling

References

Berl T, Parikh C. Disorders of water metabolism. In: Johnson RJ, Feehally J, Floege J, eds. Comprehensive Clinical Nephrology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 8.

Hall JE. Urine concentration and dilution: regulation of extracellular fluid osmolarity and sodium concentration. In: Hall JE, ed. Guyton and Hall Textbook of Medical Physiology. 13th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 29.

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Review Date: 11/20/2017  

Reviewed By: Laura J. Martin, MD, MPH, ABIM Board Certified in Internal Medicine and Hospice and Palliative Medicine, Atlanta, GA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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