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Signs & Symptoms of Dehydrated Skin

by
author image Timothy Townsend
Timothy Townsend is a health and fitness writer whose work has appeared in various online publications. He recently received his bachelor's degree with a double major in education and kinesiology.
Signs & Symptoms of Dehydrated Skin
Skin hydration is only one sign that the entire body may need liquids. Photo Credit Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images

It is said that beauty is only skin deep, but when it comes to skin dehydration, the whole body is actually affected. If the skin is dehydrated, so are the other body systems. In fact, the status of the skin is a clue that medical professionals use to find out how hydrated the rest of the body is.

Mild Skin Dehydration Changes

In the initial stages of dehydration, the body is trying to compensate by getting fluids to the place it needs them most. Your chest and head may look flushed especially. Warmth will be in these areas, but the fingers and toes may start to be cold. Skin may also be clammy at this time, as your body makes an effort to regulate temperature without proper water supply.

If you are in a continual state of mild dehydration, your body may adjust by becoming dry or flaky. Skin will also appear pale, because low hydration means decreased blood volume. In general, the skin may look less plump or sag.

Moderate Skin Dehydration Changes

As dehydration progresses, sweating stops and skin stays dry. The body is keeping the moisture it has for vital processes, so the skin on the limbs may become cooler. If you are in a hot area, they may become hot without sweating. Areas without significant oil glands, like the lips, can become cracked. Shadows may appear on the skin under the eyes, as they can sink in without hydration.

Skin Turgor

The main sign of dehydration that shows in the skin is a change in the turgor, or elasticity. This is done by grasping the skin on the back of the hand, creating a “tent.” The skin is then released and observed. If the skin snaps back quickly, the person is not in a significant state of dehydration. However, skin that is slower to return indicates that the person is dehydrated.

Skin turgor is a late sign of dehydration, occurring with moderate to severe dehydration. This is defined as 10 to 15% or more of fluid loss of body weight. This can happen in illnesses like vomiting or diarrhea and can have serious negative impact on the heart.

When To Seek Medical Care

If you are showing poor skin turgor, especially if combined with illness, seek immediate physician care. The longer the skin takes to return to normal, the more severe the dehydration, and the more quickly help is needed.

Seek emergency medical attention if you experience confusion, dizziness, lethargy, or light-headedness. Call your doctor if in addition to skin turgor problems you have blood in stool or vomit, diarrhea or vomiting in infants, dry mouth or eyes, fast-beating heart, low urine output, or any of the other symptoms listed above.

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