Dehydration can cause joint pain, muscle cramps, and other uncomfortable side effects, which can be particularly challenging for those with arthritis. 

In this post, we’ll explore the connection between dehydration and arthritis, including how dehydration can impact joint health and how to stay hydrated and minimize your symptoms. 

Whether you’re dealing with arthritis or supporting a loved one, this post will provide valuable insights and practical tips to help you manage this chronic condition.

What is dehydration?

Dehydration is a condition that occurs when the body loses more fluids than it takes in. It can lead to inadequate bodily fluids, which can cause various symptoms and complications. The body needs water and other fluids to function correctly, and when it doesn’t get enough, it can lead to dehydration.

How dehydration happens in the body

Fluid intake < fluid expelled.

Dehydration occurs when the body loses more fluids than it takes in, which can happen when fluid intake is less than the amount expelled from the body through sweating, urination, or other means.

When the body is dehydrated, it can’t function properly. Fluids are essential for proper organ function, and when the body doesn’t have enough, it can affect everything from digestion to circulation to temperature regulation.

tracking symptoms - dehydration and arthritis

The severity of dehydration can vary depending on the extent of fluid loss. Mild dehydration may cause symptoms like thirst and dry mouth, while severe dehydration can lead to serious complications like rapid heartbeat, low blood pressure, and even coma or death.

Causes of dehydration

Little fluid intake

You may become dehydrated when you don’t drink enough water or other fluids throughout the day, especially during hot weather or after high-intensity exercise.

Constant vomiting

Persistent vomiting over a short period can lead to dehydration because fluid and electrolytes are lost during the vomiting process.

Excessive sweating

When you sweat excessively, you lose fluids and electrolytes, which can lead to dehydration. It can occur during high-intensity activities like exercise or in hot weather or environment.


Persistent diarrhea over a short period can lead to dehydration. Fluid and electrolytes are lost during the diarrhea process. The situation can be challenging if you experience both diarrhea and vomiting.


A high fever can cause increased sweating and fluid loss, leading to dehydration. Staying hydrated with a fever is essential to help your body fight off the infection.

Medical conditions

Certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, kidney disease, and cystic fibrosis, can increase the risk of dehydration. It’s important to manage these conditions carefully and to stay hydrated to prevent complications.


Medications like diuretics and laxatives can increase fluid loss and lead to dehydration. It is important to talk to your doctor about any medications you’re taking and how they may affect your fluid balance. 


A woman drinking water

Signs of dehydration

Recognizing the signs of dehydration is essential for preventing complications and maintaining overall health. 

Here are some common signs of dehydration:

Dry mouth

One of the first signs of dehydration is a dry mouth. When the body is dehydrated, it produces less saliva, making the mouth feel dry and sticky.

Cracked lips

Dehydration can also cause the lips to become dry and cracked. The skin on the lips is thinner and more delicate than other body areas, making it more susceptible to dehydration.

Flushed (red) skin

Dehydration can cause the skin to become flushed or red because the body tries to cool itself down by increasing blood flow to the skin.

Swollen feet

Dehydration can cause fluid retention in the feet and ankles, leading to swelling and discomfort.

Dark-colored urine

Dehydration can cause the urine to become dark yellow or amber because the body is trying to conserve water by producing less urine.

Heat intolerance

Dehydration can make it difficult for the body to regulate its temperature, causing heat intolerance and making it more difficult to tolerate hot weather or exercise.

Joint pain

Dehydration can cause joint pain and stiffness, making moving and performing daily activities challenging.


Dehydration can cause dizziness or lightheadedness, which can be dangerous while driving or operating heavy machinery.


Dehydration can cause fatigue and lethargy, leading to difficulty concentrating and performing daily tasks.


In severe cases, dehydration can cause confusion, delirium, and other cognitive impairments.

Dehydration and arthritis

Dehydration can have a significant impact on arthritis symptoms and joint health. 

Here are some ways in which dehydration can affect the joints:

Decreased joint lubrication

Dehydration can reduce the amount of synovial fluid in the joints, decreasing lubrication and increasing friction between the bones. This can lead to joint pain and stiffness.

Reduced shock absorption

Dehydration can also reduce the shock-absorbing ability of the cartilage in the joints, which can increase wear and tear on the joint and lead to pain and inflammation.

Increases inflammation

Dehydration can increase inflammation throughout the body, including the joints, which can exacerbate arthritis symptoms and increase pain and stiffness.

Increases arthritic symptoms

Dehydration can trigger or worsen arthritis symptoms, including pain, stiffness, and swelling.

Triggers flare-ups

Dehydration can trigger flare-ups in people with rheumatoid arthritis because dehydration can increase inflammation, exacerbating rheumatoid arthritis symptoms.

Decreases joint mobility

Dehydration can make the joints feel stiff and difficult to move, reducing joint mobility and making it harder to perform daily activities.

Increases joint pain

Dehydration can cause joint pain, which can be exacerbated by movement and activity.

Increases joint degeneration

Dehydration can increase the risk of joint degeneration, leading to long-term joint damage and chronic pain.

Increases muscle cramping

Dehydration can cause muscle cramps, exacerbating joint pain and stiffness.

Triggers arthritis flare-ups

Dehydration can trigger flare-ups in people with different types of arthritis, including osteoarthritis and psoriatic arthritis.

Tips for staying hydrated

Here are some tips to help you stay hydrated throughout the day:

Drink water

Drinking water is the best way to stay hydrated. Aim to drink at least 8-10 glasses of water per day and more if you’re exercising, spending time outside in hot weather, or taking medication that might cause dehydration.

Set a fluid intake schedule

Create a schedule for drinking fluids throughout the day to ensure you stay hydrated. You can set reminders on your phone or use water bottles that have a schedule marked on them to help you stay on track.

Monitor your fluid intake

Keep track of your daily fluids to ensure you’re getting enough to stay hydrated. It can be as simple as ticking off each glass of water you drink on a chart or in a journal.

Eat juicy fruits

Eating fruits that are high in water content can help you increase your fluid intake. Watermelon, oranges, grapes, and cucumbers are all great options.

Avoid dehydrating beverages

Beverages that contain alcohol and caffeine can cause your body to lose water, so it’s best to limit your consumption of these drinks. Soda can also reduce your water consumption because it can make you feel less thirsty.

A caucasian woman drinking water


Dehydration can significantly impact joint pain and inflammation in people with arthritis because there is a close connection between dehydration and arthritis.

Staying hydrated can help reduce symptoms and improve your overall joint health. 

Making simple changes to your daily routine, like drinking more water and avoiding sugary drinks, can make a significant difference. 

If you have arthritis, staying on top of your hydration levels is essential to ensure optimal joint health. 

Remember, prevention is always better than a cure, so prioritize hydration to avoid exacerbating your symptoms.

How often do you stay hydrated, and how has it affected your health?


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