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What happens if you drink too much water?

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Quick Answer

Drinking too much water leads to hyponatremia, or water intoxication, a serious and sometimes fatal condition, according to WebMD. Water intoxication dilutes the electrolytes in the body and causes swelling of cells. However, overhydration is rare and requires drinking gallons of water.

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Full Answer

Hyponatremia comes from several Greek words and loosely translates as "too little salt in the blood," according to Scientific American. Symptoms of water intoxication range from frequent urination to mental disorientation. Trouble begins when water starts to swell brain cells, as there is little room in the cranial cavity to accommodate the enlarged cells. The condition leads to a series of potential problems including seizures, coma and death.

The symptoms of hyponatremia are similar to those of heatstroke, according to WebMD. The person is hot, has a headache and feels ill. The amount of water the individual consumes is the primary difference. An individual with hyponatremia requires medical help immediately. At the emergency room, doctors provide concentrated saltwater injections to restore the electrolyte levels and reduce swelling.

Urine color is the best indicator of hydration levels, according to WebMD. When urine is dark, the individual is likely dehydrated. However, if the urine is clear and the person is creating large volumes, there is the potential for hyponatremia.

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