Fluid Overload (Hypervolemia)
Hypervolemia is a condition in which there is too much fluid in the blood. It is also known as fluid overload. Although the body does need plenty of fluid to remain healthy, too much can cause a dangerous imbalance.
Hypervolemia is usually a result of an underlying health problem. However, mild hypervolemia can occur after eating foods with too much sodium or during hormonal changes. Mild hypervolemia usually resolves on its own if there are no other health problems.
Hypervolemia is often treatable if caught early, but the underlying cause of hypervolemia should be addressed to keep it from recurring.
What are the signs and symptoms of hypervolemia?
Symptoms of hypervolemia can cause discomfort, stress on your body and even organ trouble. Signs of fluid overload may include:
- Rapid weight gain
- Noticeable swelling (edema) in your arms, legs and face
- Swelling in your abdomen
- Cramping, headache, and stomach bloating
- Shortness of breath
- High blood pressure
- Heart problems, including congestive heart failure
What causes hypervolemia?
When you have too much sodium in your body, your body starts retaining water to balance it out. Unfortunately, this water retention can cause new problems throughout your body. Mild hypervolemia or water retention can be perfectly normal from time to time—caused by eating a lot of salty foods or by hormonal changes. Hypervolemia is usually caused by a more serious health issue that affects your body’s ability to regulate sodium and requires immediate attention from a doctor. These conditions may include:
Kidney failure. Your kidneys are responsible for removing excess fluid from your body. When your kidneys aren’t working well, fluid can build up.
Congestive heart failure. When your heart is not pumping enough blood, your kidneys aren’t able to work as well, leaving excess fluid in your body.
Liver failure or cirrhosis. Your liver processes nutrients and filters toxins. When your liver isn’t working as it should, fluid can build up in your abdomen.
Hormonal changes. Women may experience mild fluid retention as a normal part of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) or pregnancy. Excessive fluid retention related to hormonal changes may be a sign of high blood pressure and should be checked out by a doctor.
IV fluids. Receiving too much IV fluid, especially if there are other health conditions present, can lead to fluid overload and swelling.
If you’re living with CKD: you may be at risk for hypervolemia—especially in later stages as kidney function declines. After a diagnosis of kidney failure, dialysis treatments replace some kidney function to help to remove excess fluid from your body and get you as close to your “dry weight” as possible. Dry weight is your “ideal weight”—the weight your care team determines you would be without the excess fluid in your body.
If you’ve never been diagnosed with CKD: your doctor may perform several tests to help determine the cause of your fluid overload. You’ll probably be given a test to determine the amount of sodium in your blood. You’ll likely also get a urine test to help doctor determine whether your hypervolemia is being caused by a kidney issue. Further testing for kidney function can help your doctor decide which steps to take next.
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.