Dehydration in Geriatrics

MC Faes, MD, MSc; MG Spigt, PhD; MGM Olde Rikkert MD, PhD


Geriatrics and Aging. 2007;10(9):590-596. 

In This Article


Recent findings on the effect of age on body hydration and on diagnosing dehydration confirm classical notions in medicine, which state that aging results in loss of body water and that dryness of the body is very difficult to assess. In the development of gerontology water conservation has served as a very useful model to study the physiology of aging. The age-related failure of homeostasis to compensate stressful disturbances has been demonstrated very clearly in disturbances of fluid balance. An important task for geriatricians is to increase their alertness for disturbances of fluid balance and to improve early detection of dehydration. The enormous impact of dehydration on older adults in terms of mortality, morbidity, and health care expenditures warrants continuous clinical and research efforts on this topic. More data are needed to determine how the mean loss of total body water with age affects individual organs, and how organ function is affected in pathological dehydration. Can prevention of recurrent dehydration contribute to preservation of renal function or even brain function? There are a lot of very relevant clinical questions left to be studied, without being seduced by the search for the one and only accurate clinical sign of dehydration. The large variability in the way different organs are affected by dehydration will cause dehydration symptoms to remain atypical in older adults, requiring the full intellectual and diagnostic efforts of current and future geriatricians.


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