We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.
Health

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

What are Osmoreceptors?

Mary McMahon
By
Updated: Jan 30, 2024

Osmoreceptors are cells which are sensitized to osmotic pressure. Osmotic pressure changes with the concentration of solutes in the body. Using osmoreceptors, the body regulates its fluid balance to keep the balance of fluids stable and safe so that the body's numerous interconnected systems will retain functionality. Even with these receptors active, it is still possible for fluid levels to become imbalanced as a result of not intaking enough fluid, intaking too much fluid, or intaking imbalanced amounts of salts which cause variations in osmotic pressure.

Many of the key functions of the body revolve around osmotic pressure. The semipermeable membranes of cells are designed to permit osmosis so that cells can receive nutrients and express wastes, for example. The body regulates osmotic pressure through the diet and also through the release or retention of fluids to ensure that solutes in the body remain consistent. Imbalances in osmotic pressure can lead to severe health complications including death.

When osmotic pressure changes, osmoreceptors expand and contract in response. When there are low levels of solutes in the blood, these sensory receptors swell, because water moves from the blood into the cells. When the blood has a high concentration of solutes, water moves out of the osmoreceptors and into the blood. Some solutes are carried across the membrane in both cases because they travel with the water.

One area in which osmoreceptors are found is in the brain, specifically inside the hypothalamus. They regulate the amount of vasopressin, a hormone which tells the kidneys to retain water, which is expressed by the hypothalamus. Osmoreceptors can also be found in the liver and kidneys, where they play similar roles in regulating the release of chemicals which are used to regulate fluid balances in the body. These cells essentially act like little sensors to alert the body to imbalances in fluid levels so that action can be taken.

When the level of solutes in fluids like the blood is becoming too high, the body starts to retain water in an attempt to regulate osmotic pressure. People may also experience thirst because the body wants to encourage water consumption. People can develop imbalances in their fluid levels as a result of dietary habits, kidney failure, disease processes in the body, exercise, and other events. It is important to stay adequately hydrated to give the body plenty of water to work with when it comes to regulating fluid levels. People in kidney failure may be encouraged to eat a special diet which will support proper kidney function.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon270202 — On May 21, 2012

Just want to say that I've used your website a lot for research lately and it's been a massive help! So thank you very much people of wiseGEEK!!

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

Learn more
Share
WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.