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Difference Between Hypertonic and Hypotonic

Hypertonic vs Hypotonic

As we all know, our body is composed of water. It keeps the circulation and homeostasis in harmony by nourishing the cells with water. Our cells are capable of shrinking and bursting when there is water overload or water insufficiency.

In classifying solutions, there are two words that can be used to classify them. These words are “hypertonic” and “hypotonic.” “Tonic” means “fluid.” “Hyper” means “greater or more” while “hypo” means “lesser or less.” Let us tackle the differences.

In a hypertonic solution, the solute is greater than the solvent. For example, the solute is the table sugar while the solvent is the water. In hypotonic, it’s the other way around, the solute is less but the solvent is greater.

In applying these concepts in the real world and in the body, hypertonic and hypotonic solutions can be used to treat cases of dehydration, hypovolemia, hypervolemia, and other fluid and electrolyte imbalances. By knowing the concepts of hypertonicity and hypotonicity, nurses and doctors can already intervene for such patients needing immediate help for the treatment of their conditions. These solutions come in the form of intravenous fluids.

For hypertonic solutions, it can be used for treatment of a cerebral hemorrhage. It acts on the body particularly in the intracellular and extracellular spaces by allowing the flow of fluids out of the cell, therefore, shrinking the cells. Water is attracted to solutions with a higher solute. The intravascular space is where blood cells confide. So, for example, one patient is having a cerebral hemorrhage, meaning there is too much blood leaking causing hypovolemia. By administering a hypertonic solution, the water inside the blood cell will come out of the cell thus restoring the fluid circulation in the body. Examples of intravenous hypertonic solutions are D5LR and D5 .45 Na Cl.

For hypotonic solutions, it can be used for treatment of dehydration and hypernatremia, or increased sodium in the blood. Hypotonic solutions act on the body by letting the cell absorb water thus it will cause swelling. Since the solute in hypotonic solutions is less, water will shift from the solution into the cell. So for a patient having dehydration, meaning there is less water inside the cell, hypotonic solutions can be of great help in correcting the deficiency by allowing water to shift back into the cell. Examples of intravenous hypotonic solutions are 0.45 Na Cl and 0.25 Na Cl.

This concept is crucial for health practitioners who are intervening in emergency cases of severe dehydration, hypovolemia, and hemorrhage. By mastering this concept, medical practitioners can act appropriately to save their lives.


1.Hypotonic solutions have less solutes and more solvent while hypertonic solutions have more solutes and less solvent.
2.Hypotonic solutions cause the cell to swell because it promotes shifting of water into it while hypertonic solutions cause the cell to shrink because it pulls the water out of the cell.
3.Hypotonic solutions can be used for dehydration and hypernatremia while hypertonic solutions can be used for cases of hemorrhage.
4.Examples of intravenous hypotonic solutions are 0.45 Na Cl and 0.25 Na Cl while examples of intravenous hypertonic solutions are D5LR and D5 .45 Na Cl.

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