In physiology, dehydration is a deficit of total body water, with an accompanying disruption of metabolic processes. It occurs when free water loss exceeds free water intake, usually due to exercise, disease, or high environmental temperature. Mild dehydration can also be caused by immersion diuresis, which may increase risk of decompression sickness in divers.
Most people can tolerate a three to four percent decrease in total body water without difficulty or adverse health effects. A five to eight percent decrease can cause fatigue and dizziness. Loss of over ten percent of total body water can cause physical and mental deterioration, accompanied by severe thirst. Death occurs at a loss of between fifteen and twenty-five percent of the body water.Mild dehydration is characterized by thirst and general discomfort and is usually resolved with oral rehydration.
Dehydration can cause hypernatremia (high levels of sodium ions in the blood) and is distinct from hypovolemia (loss of blood volume, particularly plasma).