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Signs & Symptoms of Brain Dehydration

By Lia Stannard ; Updated July 27, 2017

Brain dehydration is a serious condition—by the time the brain is feeling the effects of dehydration, the rest of your body is suffering. Dehydration occurs when you do not intake enough fluids, like water. This leads to an improper water volume in the body, resulting in an imbalance of the minerals in the bloodstream cells. The mineral imbalance interferes with the normal function of brain cells and, when left untreated, can result in permanent brain damage or death.

Brain Cell Function

Brain cells require the right amount of water and minerals in each of the cells. If there is too much water, the cell's membrane can break; if there is not enough, the cell will shrivel up. When there is brain dehydration, less water is available for brain cells to use. This decreases the efficiency of transport of minerals and other materials between cells, thus affecting their function. Ultimately, the brain dehydration changes the structure of the brain cells, leading to their deterioration.

Dehydration Symptoms

Signs of dehydration are noticed before brain dehydration signs. If the symptoms of dehydration are noticed before the brain suffers from dehydration, you will not experience detrimental effects on the brain. Common dehydration symptoms include a dry or sticky mouth, little or no urine released, no tears being produced, eyes sunken in their sockets, lethargy and, in severe cases of dehydration, coma. One physical sign of dehydration can indicate that dehydration is beginning to affect the brain: you will exhibit a soft spot on the top of your head, like an infant has. This condition is known as sunken fontanelles.

Mental Effects

When dehydration affects the brain, mental ability will be affected immensely. Besides the symptom of physical lethargy, you will also have mental fatigue. As the brain dehydration continues, you will begin to have some memory problems and experience confusion.


When left untreated, brain dehydration can have serious effects. Due to the deterioration of brain cells from lack of water, brain dehydration can lead to seizures and permanent brain damage, which can impair your physical and mental abilities. In addition, untreated dehydration can ultimately lead to death.


The daily recommended water intake is eight glasses of water. Keep a recyclable or reusable water bottle with you throughout the day to help prevent dehydration from occurring. Besides water, drinking fluids with electrolytes can help immensely if you are dealing with dehydration.

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