Dehydration occurs when your body does not have enough fluid to carry out its normal functions. Dehydration can be mild, or it can be severe and life threatening, resulting in coma and death. Low fluid intake, illness, exercise, excessive sweating, too much sun exposure, heat and humidity, burns, certain medications and alcohol can all cause dehydration.
Glucose Levels Rise
When you become dehydrated, the amount of liquid in your blood is low in relation to the nutrients and waste products in the blood. Therefore, concentrations of glucose increase. As glucose levels increase, blood circulation through the capillaries, the smallest blood vessels, diminishes. Over time, this decreased blood supply can cause high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, blindness, nervous system damage, kidney disease and dental disease.
In the short term, increased blood glucose levels can cause fatigue, blurred vision, increased thirst and an increased need to urinate. Since diabetes is characterized by increased thirst and urination anyway, if you are diabetic, dehydration can rapidly become a serious problem.
Mild dehydration, even without the complication of diabetes, can make you feel tired, thirsty and weak and give you a headache. Severe dehydration adds irritability, dry mouth and mucous membranes, sunken eyes, low blood pressure, overly rapid heartbeat and fever. Delirium, unconsciousness and death can follow.
As a diabetic, you should know what causes dehydration and take steps to avoid it. Vigorous exercise in high heat and humidity conditions require a greater fluid intake, as does spending the day at the beach. Pay attention to your body's thirst signals. Have a plan to prevent or minimize dehydration caused by fever, vomiting or diarrhea.
If you have diabetes and you suspect you are mildly dehydrated, check your blood sugar. If it is high, take immediate steps to lower it. Drink water or a beverage with electrolytes and follow your doctor's instructions about taking insulin or other medications. Do not drink coffee, tea or other liquids which act as diuretics. Focus on rehydrating (providing enough fluid for your body to function properly). While keeping your glucose levels under control is important, you cannot maintain normal glucose levels without reversing the dehydration.
If you have any symptoms of severe dehydration--if you cannot keep fluids down, are disoriented, develop severe diarrhea or vomiting, have blue lips, cold hands or feet, or if you are extremely thirsty and do not urinate for seven to eight hours--seek medical attention immediately. Severe dehydration constitutes a life-threatening emergency.