Last reviewed by Dr. Raj MD on January 12th, 2022.
Hypervolemia is a medical condition which occurs when your body retains more water than your body needs. It is also referred to as fluid overload. Your kidneys are what usually controls the process of excess water and if this mechanism is disrupted it can cause the fluids to disperse into the tissues of your body. Hypervolemia can also cause an elevated volume of blood.
What happens during Hypervolemia
The sodium in your body helps to balance your body’s fluids. When you have too much sodium it causes an increase in the body’s fluids. When you have a normal sodium intake it will not cause you to have hypervolemia but there are certain conditions that can cause your sodium levels to go too high and cause this medical condition. When you have hypervolemia your heart becomes strained as it tries to pump out the excess fluid but it is unable to pump out all the excess fluid effectively. As a result these excess fluids start to remain in your body tissues. The tissues of your body that are usually affected are your arms and hands, abdomen, and ankles and lower legs. If it were a severe case the tissues of your lungs would be affected.
Characteristics of Hypervolemia
One characteristic is the pitting edema on the parts of your body that have a lot of tissue in which to hold these excessive fluids. Another area where there could be pitting edema is your legs and ankles due to gravity that pulls the excess fluid downward.
- Frothy sputum
- Moist cough
- Changes in your blood pressure
- Shortness of breath
- Slowed or increased heart rate
- Swollen abdomen
The most obvious method of knowing if you are retaining excessive fluids to weigh yourself daily. If you see that overnight you have gain five or more pounds it could be hypervolemia. You should keep a journal of your daily weight for at least a week and if you notice weight gains you should contact your physician for a diagnosis.
Causes of Hypervolemia
Basically the cause of hypervolemia is a disruption in the water/salt balance in your body. The causes of hypervolemia can be from long-term conditions or short-term temporary conditions.
- Kidney disease — if your kidneys are not functioning as well as they should they will not be able to excrete the correct amount of fluids.
- Liver disease — your liver works with your kidneys to excrete toxins from your body but if your liver is weak because of a liver disease it can cause excess fluid to build up in your abdomen.
- Heart disease — this can happen if your heart becomes too weak and is no longer able to pump the proper amounts of fluid through your body. When this happens it causes the excess fluids to settle in your extremities and many times your lungs.
Short-term temporary conditions
- Intravenous fluids — if these are give to you at too fast a rate this medical condition can develop. The IV fluids will need to be given to you at the rate that your heart can keep up with in order to maintain fluid balance. Most IV fluids also contain zero point nine Sodium Chloride. This can keep the IV fluids from filtering through your kidneys at the correct rate.
- Surgery/injury/illness — your kidneys respond to the hormone in your body called Anti-Diuretic Hormone (ADH). There are some surgeries, injuries, and illnesses and other stress on your body that can disrupt the balance of ADH and cause your body to retain fluid.
- Transfusion reaction — this is when you have a blood transfusion and it is done to rapidly.
Treatment for Hypervolemia
The first thing that your physician will have you do when you are diagnosed with hypervolemia is to have you reduce the intake of fluids. If you are in the hospital, your physician may restrict your fluid intake or reduce the amount of IV fluids you get. Your physician may restrict you to no more than two liters of fluids a day. How much fluids you would be allowed on a daily basis would depend on how much swelling there is.
The next thing your physician would do is to restrict your sodium intake. Normally you are allowed two thousand milligrams of sodium each day but with hypervolemia it would be lower. To help lower your sodium intake you should avoid these foods:
- Potato chips
- Cured lunch meat, sausage
- Canned vegetables and soup
- Cured vegetables like pickles
- Table salt
- Full-sodium broth
You may also be given a prescription for a diuretic, also known as a water pill to help your body get rid of excess fluids. Make sure that if you are on a diuretic that you eat foods that are high in potassium and that you follow your physician’s directions on when and how to take this medication. The reason that you need to eat foods that are rich in potassium is that diuretics can deplete the potassium in your body so you need to make sure that your body has enough potassium. You can eat oranges, orange juice, bananas, strawberries, and baked potatoes with the skin. You can also use over-the-counter salt substitutes and herbal seasonings. Just read the labels to check for sodium content first.
If your feet, ankles, and/or legs are swollen make sure that will you sit down or sleep that they are elevated above the level of your heart to help prevent the pooling of excess fluids in these areas. Your physician may also have you wear compression stockings until you have the swelling under control.
If these are the causes, here is how they would be treated.
- Kidney disease — normally you will require kidney dialysis to help pull out the excess fluid
- Liver disease — you may have to have a procedure done to extract the excess fluid from your abdomen using a needle. If you have advanced liver disease you may also require kidney dialysis because of your kidneys are being overworked.