It’s possible to drink too much water if you have kidney failure. If you have this condition, it’s important to closely monitor the amount of water you drink.

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Your kidneys filter the water and other fluids you drink, sending hydration throughout your body. Your body takes what it needs and gets rid of the rest in the form of urine.

When your kidneys don’t work, wastes can build up. And in the case of overhydration, important electrolytes can be diluted too much. Too much fluid can also put a strain on your kidneys.

This article will explore the concept of overhydration and why monitoring your fluid intake is especially important for people with kidney failure.

Overhydration can develop when you consume too much water for your body to process. While dehydration is something people are more used to worrying about, overhydration can be dangerous, too.

Generally, it’s recommended that most people to drink about 2 liters of water each day. It’s not common for someone to drink too much water, so it isn’t discussed as much as dehydration.

But there are body functions that can become overwhelmed when your tissues are oversaturated. The biggest complication of overhydration is that minerals, electrolytes, and other solutes become too diluted with excess water consumption — especially salt.

Most people’s bodies can handle an excess of water here and there. Your kidneys will process the water, putting some back into your body and getting rid of the rest through urine. They also manage levels of electrolytes like potassium, salt, and magnesium. Too much or too little of any of these can be dangerous and cause noticeable symptoms.

For people with chronic kidney disease or kidney failure, though, too much water in the body is a much bigger problem than for people without kidney failure.

When you have chronic kidney disease or kidney failure, your kidneys aren’t as effective at filtering your body’s wastes, and that includes maintaining fluid and electrolyte balances by creating urine.

If you drink too much water, one of the most common problems you can develop — whether you have kidney failure or not — is hyponatremia. Hyponatremia means that there’s low level of sodium in your blood, and it can cause symptoms like:

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • headache
  • fatigue
  • confusion
  • low blood pressure
  • low energy
  • muscle weakness
  • muscle twitching or cramping
  • restlessness
  • irritability
  • seizures
  • coma

Excess fluid in your body can also dilute other critically important minerals and electrolytes like potassium, calcium, and magnesium.

There are different levels of kidney disease, but if you have reached complete kidney failure or end-stage renal disease, very little of your kidneys is working as it should, if at all.

This means that your body has little to no capacity for removing wastes, extra electrolytes, or fluid from your body. In most cases, you don’t make urine at all in this stage and instead rely on various treatments to supplement the work of your kidneys.

Some people with advanced kidney disease or kidney failure are put on fluid restrictions, meaning they’re advised to consume only a limited amount of water and other fluids in between treatments for their kidney disease.

The complication of not sticking to these fluid restrictions and consuming either a typical amount or too much water can lead to fluid overload (hypervolemia).

Fluid overload in people with end-stage renal disease and kidney failure is dangerous because the body can’t remove the extra fluid on its own. Complex and often urgent medical treatment is required for fluid overload to prevent many kinds of complications, including:

How much water you need to drink if you have kidney disease varies by the stage of the disease. As your stage of kidney disease advances, your kidney function decreases and so does your body’s ability to get rid of extra fluid as urine.

The precise amount of fluid you should or shouldn’t drink is something to discuss with your healthcare professional since this is an amount that can be different from person to person.

If you’re undergoing treatments for kidney failure, like some form of dialysis, you may be limited to as little as 32 ounces of fluid per day, and usually no more than 2 liters.

Your fluid limit can also be set based on how much urine you make each day — if you still make urine with your level of kidney failure — and how quickly fluid builds up in your body. People who undergo treatments for kidney disease are usually advised to know their “dry weight,” which is your ideal weight without extra fluid.

Based on that dry weight, your healthcare professional will recommend the amount of fluid intake you need each day and how often you need treatment. Generally, people with kidney disease are advised to contact their healthcare team if they see their weight increasing too much between treatments, as this can be a sign they’re becoming fluid-overloaded.

If you have kidney failure, you’ll likely need some form of dialysis to help manage your fluid and electrolyte balance. Dialysis is a treatment that mimics the work of your kidney by filtering out wastes and excessive amounts of things like potassium that could cause other problems when levels get too high.

There are a few types of dialysis. They are different because of how effective they are and how they’re done. Your nephrologist — a kidney specialist — will help you create a treatment plan if you have kidney failure and will recommend how and when you should receive treatment to avoid complications from fluid overload.

In earlier stages of kidney disease, medications can be given that help your body release extra fluid, but once you have little to no kidney function left, these medications are not as effective.

People who continue to drink large amounts of fluid with kidney failure can experience complications.

Fluid overload and associated issues like high blood pressure and shortness of breath are big problems in people undergoing dialysis. Not only do these complications add an extra layer of problems to your kidney disease, but they can lead to dangerous complications in your breathing and blood pressure, too.

Fluid management is such an important issue in people with kidney failure undergoing dialysis treatments because of the risk it involves. Numerous studies investigate the link between fluid overload and complications of kidney disease, with one report linking chronic fluid overload in people with end-stage renal disease to a significant increase in death.

It can also shorten the lives of people with kidney disease and have a negative impact on their quality of life.

Can overhydration affect your kidneys?

Yes, but more so if you already have kidney disease or failure.

It’s not so much that overhydration hurts your kidneys at this stage but that your kidneys aren’t able to remove the extra fluid from your body. This extra fluid can then cause problems for several other body systems and processes in the body.

How much water is too much with kidney failure?

Many people with kidney failure who are undergoing some kind of treatment like dialysis will be placed on a fluid restriction. This is a limit on how much water and other fluids they can drink in between treatment sessions.

Usually, this limit is set somewhere under 2 liters per day, taking into account how much urine — if any — you still make.

What are some signs you drank too much water with kidney disease?

Shortness of breath and high blood pressure are two red flags for fluid overload in people with kidney failure and end-stage renal disease.

These complications of fluid overload in people who undergo dialysis can cause strain to your heart and lungs, leading to even more serious complications.

Kidney failure is a severe form of kidney disease that develops when your kidneys are so damaged that they remove little to no fluid and waste from your body.

A buildup of fluid from overhydration, or even regular hydration in people with fluid restrictions, can cause problems with your breathing, heart function, and other critical functions.

Talk with your healthcare professional about how much water you should drink each day, especially if you have kidney disease or kidney failure.