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What Is Water Intoxication?


This condition has many causes, and the topic of water intoxication (hyponatremia) has not been covered extensively in medical literature. Consequently, in the early stages, the problem may not be diagnosed, even though patients may show signs of disorientation, confusion, vomiting, and nausea, along with psychotic symptoms and changes in their mental condition. Detection of the problem at this point is essential to prevent coma, seizures, and even death.

Our Need for Water

Every day, a healthy adult’s kidneys can process about 15 liters of water, and to avoid water intoxication, people should drink water throughout the day, rather than taking in a large quantity at one time. Also, the average adult requires about three quarts of liquid daily, and much of that comes from fruit and vegetables, along with other foods. While 8 glasses of water per day are usually recommended, anyone living in a hot or very dry climate may require more. Also, if you take certain medications or engage in strenuous exercise, your need for water may also increase. While it is uncommon, water intoxication is a reality, and infants can also suffer from it if they take in too much water within a brief period of time.

Sodium and Water

Sodium is an element that controls the body’s fluid balance, helps in maintaining normal blood pressure, and supports the functioning of your muscles and nerves. If the sodium level in your blood becomes too low, excess water will enter your cells, causing them to swell. This is particularly dangerous when the brain is affected, because it is impossible for the brain to expand.

The imbalance between water and sodium in the bloodstream has three basic causes:

  • Low sodium levels are the result when excess water dilutes the concentration of sodium, and this can lead to heart failure, liver failure, or kidney failure.
  • Certain medications, cancer, or a chronic health condition cause water levels that are normal to be combined with sodium levels that are low.
  • Events such as a significant loss of blood or strenuous exercising without boosting your electrolytes may result in low sodium and water levels.

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