Healthy Living

How Dehydration is Diagnosed

How Dehydration is Diagnosed

Signs such as abnormal skin elasticity, no urination and sunken eyes are often used by doctors to diagnose dehydration. Other symptoms are decreased blood flow to the extremities, accelerated heart rate and low blood pressure when standing after a period of rest.

The following tests may be administered to identify dehydration and confirm diagnosis:

  • Urinalysis: Doctors conduct tests on your urine to determine the extent of dehydration.
  • Blood tests: Doctors obtain blood samples to analyze factors like the condition of your kidneys and electrolyte levels.

The aforementioned tests may not always provide obvious answers. Your doctor may need to check your body for liver failure, kidney problems and diabetes using additional tests.

It is important for your doctor to determine the underlying causes of your dehydration for comprehensive treatment.

Dehydration and swimmers ear


Signs of dehydration

Accelerated heart rate, fever, and increased breathing are all signs of dehydration and underlying illnesses.

Doctors may read your blood pressure and pulse when you are lying down and then again after standing up. This can reveal the degree of dehydration. Normally, your blood pressure drops for a few seconds when you stand up from a lying position. Blood pressure returns to normal as heart rate increases.

Dehydration causes reduced blood fluid. As the heart rate increases when you stand, little to no blood is sent to the brain. You are likely to experience dizziness or faintness associated with this symptom.



Doctors may assess your temperature to determine the level of fever. Common temperature measurements are oral (by mouth) and tympatic (in the ear). However, a doctor may conduct a rectal thermometer reading if these two do not detect fever in a patient who appears warm.



To determine turgor (the degree of elasticity), doctors may check the presence of sweat in your skin. Increased dehydration causes reduced water content in the skin, making it elastic. Sweat content is also reduced in the groin and armpit when dehydrated. Normally these areas are moist or hydrated, and can be a determining factor in dehydration diagnosis.



Healthcare professionals can use the wetness of your tongue and mouth to determine the level of dehydration.


Dehydrated Infants

Since infants cannot explain how they feel, doctors may assess the skull’s soft spot as a way to determine dehydration. Also, a poor sucking mechanism can be a sign of dehydration in an infant.


Pediatric dehydration patients

Doctors often weigh patients to determine the amount of water lost. This is especially true in the event of acute illness. Because scales are not identical, this method may only present a rough estimate. Doctors must consider the type of clothing worn during the weigh-in.

More efficient methods for pediatric diagnosis are abnormal skin turgor, prolonged capillary refill duration, and abnormal respiratory patterns. More importantly, a combination of physical assessment and clinical tests are better at predicting dehydration than mere signs.

Mild or moderate dehydration where diarrhea is the cause, can be treated through oral rehydration therapy. In addition, electrolyte and fluid loss management is advantageous in treating dehydration.

The objective of oral rehydration therapy involves the restoration of the interstitial fluid volume, restoration of the body’s circulation, and rehydration maintenance. After restoring hydration, patients should observe age-appropriate diets to maintain the optimum water levels in the body.


Diagnosis and management of dehydration:

Dehydration disrupts the body’s electrolyte and water balance. It causes the cells to shrink, thereby leading to an imbalance, often accompanied by fatigue, loss of energy and productivity. In severe cases, when immediate aid is not given, dehydration could lead to some levels of confusion or disorientation. It is relatively easy to diagnose dehydration as it leaves you weak and drained out. Besides that, you might experience a drop in blood pressure. This can be checked by reading the blood pressure, noticing loss of energy and experiencing listlessness. As the body begins to lose water, the skin tends to lose its elasticity to an extent. This is often accompanied with sweat especially in prone areas. An analysis of the urine and blood can help in detecting dehydration. An abnormal heart rate is also an indication of dehydration at many times. When a person feels dehydrated, it is important to help him store normalcy. As an immediate step or first attempt, he can be given a dose of glucose or sugar solution, so that he does not get hypoglycemic. Soon after that, an electrolyte solution or oral rehydration solution can be given. This solution, as the name indicates, contains the right proportions of minerals and electrolytes to restore hydration.

The symptoms of dehydration may not be very sudden always. If you tend to experience any of the symptoms, indicating loss of energy, fatigue, sweating, less flow of blood to your extremities, you can be almost certain that it is dehydration that is causing the depletion of electrolytes and disrupting your water balance in the body. To make sure that the right treatment ensues, it is vital to run a thorough investigation of the cause and problem. Knowing the exact cause of dehydration will help you deal with it better. Managing dehydration initially is important. If left unattended for fairly long periods, it could cause severe depletion of the essential nutrients and water from the body. Once diagnosed and treated, understand the cause to prevent it from recurring again. As a second step, incorporate fresh fruits and vegetables that are high in fibre and water content. Additionally, have lots of water, increase your daily fluid intake and consume a diet rich in all food groups. Do not exert yourself or engage in strenuous activities soon after or a few days following the episode. Take adequate rest and let your body recover. Have regular dosages of the prescribed solution, enough quantity of fluids and a well balanced diet at regular intervals. IT is important to remember that by no means should you skip a meal. Sometimes, further tests need to be conducted to diagnose the deeper problems associated with dehydration, to understand the secondary and tertiary infections that may cause it. If you feel you might have unknowingly caused further damage to your body, it would be wise for you to go and get medical advice.