We all know the daily water drill. Drink eight cups of water a day to stay healthy. This is an age-old notion that we are taught as children and still hear as adults. After all, water is the stuff of life. Surely, it wouldn’t hurt to drink more. However, it is possible to overdose on the very stuff that makes up majority of our bodies. Hyperhydration, also known as water intoxication, is a medical condition where the body intakes more water than it discharges. It is very dangerous and can even be lethal when untreated. Hyperhydration causes an imbalance in multiple anatomical systems and can cause many latent conditions including but not limited to hyponatremia, unnecessary strain on the body, and even brain damage.
Hyponatremia is a condition where the sodium blood levels literally become watered down. When this happens, the cells in the body become engorged due to an abnormal increase in the body’s water levels. Such swelling can have many implications and can even cause a coma. Nonspecific symptoms of hyponatremia may include one or a combination of headaches, fatigue, seizures and muscle spasms, and nausea and vomiting.
Hyperhydration also causes unnecessary strain on blood vessels and also the kidneys. The extra filtration work warranted in the event of excessive water intake can wreak significant damage to the tiny capillary beds that composes most of the kidneys. This filtration overtime causes the capillary beds to eventually tear and possibly even burst. This is especially more dangerous to people who already have previous or chronic kidney disease. Underlying kidney conditions can make the symptoms of hyperhydration deadly.
Water is one of the few molecules that can easily cross the brain’s blood-brain barrier, or BBB. The BBB cannot monitor the actual amount of water that enters the brain, so in the event of hyperhydration, water has free access to the cranial system. This makes the brain most vulnerable to damage brought upon by excess water in the body. Hyperhydration can cause swelling in the brain, which can then lead to seizures and even a coma. Behavioral symptoms may also likely occur. Confusion, delirium, blurred vision, and paralysis are among some of the things that can happen due to water intoxication affecting in the brain.
Your water intake is an important part of living a healthy lifestyle. Remember that there are many factors that determine how much your water intake should be. This includes your age and weight, your activity levels, and other pre-existing health conditions. It is unlikely that hyperhydration will happen just by drinking an extra cup or two of water daily. Intentional heavy water intake or excessive intake during sports or performance activities are more likely to cause water intoxication than anything. We tend to drink less water than we should anyway, so keep on hydrating yourself. Water is more likely to bring you good health than otherwise.
Photo Credits: Philmaffetone