Hyperhydration Definition

Hyperhydration is an increased storage of total water in the organism. The cause can be short-term living conditions or chronic illnesses. Medical intervention requires any form of hyperhydration.

What is hyperhydration?

The isotonic hyperhydration manifests itself primarily through kidney problems and circulatory problems. Among other things, those affected suffer from functional disorders of the internal organs and usually feel an increasing feeling of illness. See AbbreviationFinder for abbreviations related to Hyperhydration.

Hyperhydration is excessive infiltration of water into the body. Doctors differentiate between 3 forms of pathological excess water. The basis of the classification is the distribution of the sodium concentration within the different fluid components in the organism.

Sodium is a dissolved component of table salt in the body and plays a major role in osmoregulation. This means controlling the water and mineral balance of the body (electrolyte balance). Doctors speak of isotonic hyperhydration when there is an above-normal increase in water and sodium in all volumes. The concentration of water and sodium in the blood as well as in the cells and the tissue fluid remains constant.

Hypertonic hydration is characterized by an excessive concentration of sodium in the blood. If the proportion of sodium and water in the blood is too low, it is hypotonic overhydration. Key symptoms notwithstanding, excess fluid is a feature of all 3 forms of overhydration.


Hyperhydration often has serious causes. Heart failure ( cardiac insufficiency) often means that the necessary filtration rate can no longer be achieved in the kidneys. As a result, the body excretes too little excess water and sodium. Another underlying condition associated with overhydration can be cirrhosis of the liver. Both causes belong to the isotonic form of overhydration.

Hypotonic hyperhydration is common in acute or chronic renal failure. The kidneys can no longer fulfill their function of keeping the internal environment constant. A less common cause is excessive intake of low-salt fluids. This includes, for example, gastric lavage in the event of poisoning.

Too much salt leads to hypertonic overhydration. It can also be called salt poisoning. This rarely happens when, for example, seawater is used to quench thirst, or when consuming other overly salty liquids leads to overhydration.

Symptoms, Ailments & Signs

Depending on its form, overhydration can cause a variety of symptoms and ailments. The isotonic hyperhydration manifests itself primarily through kidney problems and circulatory problems. Among other things, those affected suffer from functional disorders of the internal organs and usually feel an increasing feeling of illness. Due to the impaired kidney function, weight gain and digestive problems occur.

The isotonic form is associated with limited physical and mental performance. Hypertonic hyperhydration produces similar symptoms. Patients suffer from kidney pain, severe malaise and other non-specific symptoms. The symptoms usually appear suddenly and last for several weeks or months.

If left untreated, hypertonic overhydration can develop into a chronic condition. The same applies to hypotonic hyperhydration, which can manifest itself in symptoms such as headaches, nausea and vomiting, and seizures. Disorders of consciousness such as dizziness and visual disturbances are also common.

Due to the increased intracranial pressure, a strong feeling of discomfort sets in, often accompanied by pain attacks. If the course is severe, the patient loses consciousness and eventually falls into a coma. The individual forms of overhydration have in common that they occur in connection with an infusion and rapidly increase in intensity over the course of the course.

Diagnosis & History

The doctor recognizes the overhydration in the hypertonic as well as the hypotonic form from the blood laboratory values . The sodium level is then increased or decreased. The patient is helped quickly and without complications if there is only a short-term oversupply or undersupply with table salt or water low in minerals. This is due to the current circumstances.

Chronic kidney failure with hypotonic hyperhydration practically means organ loss with far-reaching consequences. Isotonic overhydration usually results in the formation of edema. Water leaks from the blood vessels into the interstitial spaces.

Macroscopically visible signs can be swollen hands or feet. Lung edema is life -threatening and is detected when listening to the lungs because it becomes noticeable through rattling noises when breathing. To confirm the diagnosis, the doctor may order an X-ray examination. In the course of serious underlying diseases such as cardiac insufficiency or cirrhosis of the liver, death is often the result of isotonic overhydration.


Overhydration causes various symptoms and complaints that can lead to complications. First and foremost, the person affected suffers from a relatively large increase in weight. This can be done at first for no particular reason. The patient becomes exhausted and extremely tired.

The resilience decreases and the person concerned withdraws from life. In most cases, heart palpitations and shortness of breath also occur. It is not uncommon for breathing difficulties to lead to panic attacks and thus to loss of consciousness. The person concerned is confused and there are problems with coordination and concentration.

The quality of life is significantly restricted by overhydration, so that the patient can no longer easily go about his everyday life. In the worst case, convulsions and epileptic seizures occur, in which the person concerned suffers from extreme pain. Since overhydration is acute in most cases, it can be treated relatively quickly.

There are no further complications. However, these can occur if the overhydration is triggered by a failure of the kidneys. In this case, a donor kidney or dialysis is necessary for the patient. Heart problems can also develop, so that in the worst case the patient can die of sudden cardiac death.

When should you go to the doctor?

If water retention or weight gain is noticed, overhydration may be the cause. A doctor’s visit is indicated if the symptoms are associated with fatigue or seizures. People who feel ill and exhausted for no reason should speak to their family doctor immediately. Other alarm signs that require immediate clarification are shortness of breath, tachycardia and confusion. If panic attacks should occur, the person concerned must be taken to a hospital.

Hyperhydration cannot usually be recognized by those affected themselves, which is why unusual symptoms must always be medically clarified. Early screening can often prevent serious complications. However, if the excess water is left untreated, it can lead to complications such as circulatory collapse and kidney failure. Individuals suffering from renal insufficiency are particularly susceptible to overhydration. There is also an increased risk of excess water in the body as a result of heart failure or liver cirrhosis. Anyone who belongs to these risk groups should have the above-mentioned signs and symptoms clarified quickly.

Treatment & Therapy

Hyperhydration as an acute crisis is quickly remedied. All that is required is the administration of electrolytes, i.e. fluids with an appropriate and beneficial mineral content. If there is acute or chronic kidney failure as a result of hypotonic hyperhydration, the patient first needs dialysis (“blood washing”). In the case of complete functional failure of the kidney, a transplant is sought.

The administration of water-repellent medication (diuretics) is the doctor’s first measure if edema has formed during the course of isotonic hyperhydration. A liquid balance provides information about the water status. The patient is often required to drink only a small amount of liquid, and the underlying disease must also be addressed. Heart failure requires heart-strengthening drugs (“digitalis”).

If severe cardiac arrhythmias occur, the surgeon must implant a cardiac pacemaker. The last resort is a heart transplant in severe cases. Cirrhosis of the liver is causally untreatable. An appropriate low-fat diet can provide some relief. Degenerative liver disease is certainly one of the worst causes of overhydration.

Outlook & Forecast

General health will gradually deteriorate with overhydration if medical treatment is not sought. Although there is usually no life-threatening condition, the quality of life is significantly reduced. This can lead to mental stress and ultimately to psychological complications.

An improvement in the symptoms is only possible if the cause of the water retention is found and treated. In the case of a chronic underlying disease, symptomatic therapy is usually carried out. There is no cure in these patients. The medical possibilities are intended to slow down the progression of the underlying disease and, if necessary, to extend the life expectancy of the patient. The therapy is aimed at strengthening well-being, since healing is not possible with current scientific approaches.

An acute situation is treated in intensive care. Complete relief from overhydration occurs after a short time. However, the overall diagnosis must be considered to allow for a complete prognosis and to avoid rapid recurrence of overhydration.

If the patient suffers from cardiac arrhythmias, he needs extensive further medical care. Renal insufficiency can lead to organ failure and thus to the sudden death of the patient. For most underlying diseases, there is a need for action to ensure that hyperhydration is permanently free of symptoms.


In prophylaxis, hyperhydration is seen as observing general advice on healthy living. For example, extreme excess of salt should be avoided, especially in midsummer, “reasonable” drinks, such as low-sodium mineral water or similar, should be drunk. The omission of stimulant abuse, instead a lot of exercise in the fresh air is ultimately also a prevention against hyperhydration.


In the case of overhydration, the affected person usually has few follow-up measures available. First and foremost, this disease must be detected quickly and, above all, at an early stage, so that further complications can be prevented. As a rule, self-healing of hyperhydration is not possible, so that medical treatment must always be carried out first.

The earlier hyperhydration is detected, the better the further course of the disease. The disease can often be treated relatively well and easily by taking a special solution. The person concerned must ensure that the dosage is correct and that it is taken regularly in order to alleviate the symptoms.

Recurring checks and examinations by a doctor are also very useful to monitor the status. Since overhydration can also have a negative effect on the sufferer’s heart, the heart should also be monitored. The person concerned should not burden his body unnecessarily and should not carry out any strenuous activities. In some cases, those affected are therefore also dependent on the help and support of friends and their own family.

You can do that yourself

In the case of overhydration, self-treatment is often not possible, so that those affected are dependent on medical intervention.

In the first place, with the disease, the water intake should be reduced to avoid further accumulation of water if the water is ingested in a large amount. In acute emergencies, a doctor must be called who can administer an electrolyte solution to the person concerned to balance the mineral balance. Taking diuretic medication can also have a positive effect on the disease and alleviate the symptoms. Furthermore, a healthy lifestyle with a healthy diet has a very positive effect on the course of hyperhydration. In the case of a chronic course, however, treatment by a doctor is essential and cannot be replaced by self-help.

If the person concerned suffers from shortness of breath or loss of consciousness, an ambulance must be called or the hospital must be visited. Until the arrival of the emergency doctor, the person concerned must be given emergency ventilation and placed in a stable lateral position. In the case of salt poisoning, the person affected must drink low-salt water to rebalance the body’s salt balance.