What is hypervolemia?
Hypervolemia, also called fluid overload, is the condition of having too much water in your body. While the body normally has a certain amount of fluids in it, too much fluid can damage your health.
The signs of hypervolemia include:
- swelling, also called edema, most often in the feet, ankles, wrists, and face
- discomfort in the body, causing cramping, headache, and stomach bloating
- high blood pressure caused by excess fluid in the bloodstream
- shortness of breath caused by extra fluid entering your lungs and reducing your ability to breathe normally
- heart problems, because excess fluid can speed up or slow your heart rate, harm your heart muscles, and increase the size of your heart
Often, it’s problems with your kidneys that cause hypervolemia. This is because the kidneys normally balance the amount of salts and fluids in your body. When they retain salt, they increase the body’s total sodium content, which increases your fluid content.
The most common causes of hypervolemia include:
- heart failure, specifically of the right ventricle
- cirrhosis, often caused by excess alcohol consumption or hepatitis
- kidney failure, often caused by diabetes and other metabolic disorders
- nephrotic syndrome, a disorder that causes excess excretion of protein in the urine
- premenstrual edema, or swelling that occurs prior to a woman’s menstrual cycle
- pregnancy, which changes a woman’s hormonal balance and can result in fluid retention
If you believe you’re experiencing hypervolemia, visit your doctor. They can determine if you’re experiencing this condition.
First, your doctor will conduct a physical exam. The key diagnostic signs of hypervolemia include weight gain and swelling. One or more parts of your body may appear swollen, depending on whether or not you have been sitting, lying, or standing before your visit.
Your doctor is also likely to perform a blood test to check your sodium levels. While your body’s total sodium levels will be increased if you have hypervolemia, your sodium levels in the blood work may be high, normal, or low.
Performing a sodium test on your urine can help determine if your kidneys are causing your hypervolemia or if there is another cause.
For renal failure, urinary sodium content is typically greater than 20 milliequivalents per liter (mEq/L), while in cases of heart failure, cirrhosis, and nephrotic syndrome it will be less than 10 mEq/L.
Untreated hypervolemia can cause several complications, some of which are life-threatening. These include:
- pericarditis, or swelling of the heart tissues
- heart failure
- delayed wound healing
- tissue breakdown
- decreased bowel function
Treatment of hypervolemia differs from person to person depending on the cause of the condition.
Generally, all people with hypervolemia receive a round of diuretics, which are medications that remove excess fluid.
In extreme cases, a doctor will recommend dialysis (fluid removal through the kidneys) and paracentesis (fluid removal through the belly).
Your doctor will also require you to restrict your dietary sodium intake.
While you recover from hypervolemia, it’s essential to weigh yourself daily to ensure you’re expelling the excess fluid in your body. Most people who stick to their doctor’s treatment plans make a full, quick recovery. This important for preventing complications, which can harm your health.
Besides monitoring your weight, you can prevent a recurrence of fluid overload by:
- tracking your fluid intake
- following the fluid intake guidelines from your doctor
- managing your thirst with sugar-free candies, ice chips, frozen grapes, and other low-fluid, thirst-quenching foods
- ensuring you do not consume too much sodium