Dehydration occurs because there is too much water lost, not enough water taken in, or most often a combination of the two.
- Diarrhea: Diarrhea is the most common reason for a person to loose excess amounts of water. A significant amount of water can be lost with each bowel movement. Worldwide, more than four million children die each year because of dehydration from diarrhea.
- Vomiting: Vomiting can also be a cause of fluid loss and it is difficult for a person to replace water by drinking it if they are unable to tolerate liquids.
- Sweat: The body can lose significant amounts of water when it tries to cool itself by sweating. Whether the body is hot because of the environment (for example, working in a warm environment), intense exercising in a hot environment, or because a fever is present due to an infection; the body uses a significant amount of water in the form of sweat to cool itself. Depending upon weather conditions, a brisk walk may generate up to 16 ounces of sweat (a pound of water) to allow body cooling, and that water needs to be replaced.
- Diabetes: In people with diabetes, elevated blood sugar levels cause sugar to spill into the urine and water then follows, which may cause significant dehydration. For this reason, frequent urination and excessive thirst are among the early symptoms of diabetes.
- Burns: Burn victims become dehydrated because the damaged skin cannot prevent fluid from seeping out of the body. Other inflammatory diseases of the skin are also associated with fluid loss.
- Inability to drink fluids: The inability to drink adequately is the other potential cause of dehydration. Whether it is the lack of availability of water or the lack of strength to drink adequate amounts, this, coupled with routine or extraordinary water losses can compound the degree of dehydration.
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