Hyponatremia (low blood sodium): Symptoms and Causes

A few days back, my husband was complaining of nausea, vomiting, and headache continuously. He lost consciousness for a while. We rushed for the doctor’s help, he performed blood tests and concluded the reason for hyponatremia.

Hyponatremia is nothing but a low level of sodium in serum. Approximately our human body contains 1.3 gm of sodium. Except for some amount found in bones, most of the sodium is available in the fluids which play a vital role.

Role of Sodium

  • Sodium helps to keep a normal balance of fluids.
  • It ensures proper fluid and electrolyte or pH balance in our body together with chlorine and potassium.
  • Sodium plays a role in normal nerve and muscle function.
  • Controlling the blood volume. Hence, blood pressure.
  • It helps in controlling the heartbeat and its maintenance.

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What is Hyponatremia?

The body sodium is located in the blood and in the fluid around cells. It helps the body to keep fluids in a normal balance. Sodium is a mineral that occurs naturally in foods or is added during manufacturing or both. Most of the sodium in our diets comes from packaged, processed foods (1).

  • Kidneys play a vital role in maintaining the levels of sodium in the body. The body loses sodium through sweat and urine. The concentration of sodium in the blood may be low or high. This means people who sweat or urinate a lot may face low levels of sodium.
  • The too low levels of serum sodium concentration are called Hyponatremia and too high levels denote Hypernatremia. This balance is maintained through the urine excretion.
  • Our body normally has a certain amount of fluids in it, too much fluid can damage your health. Hyponatremia usually results when the body retains too much water or fluids and salts.
  • When the levels of sodium begin to drop, water flows into the cell. The water flowing into the cell causes it to swell which can cause serious side effects if left untreated.

A normal blood sodium level – It is between 135 and 145 mill equivalents per liter (mEq/L). Hyponatremia – When sodium levels in the blood fall below 135 mEq/L.

Causes

The medical condition or some lifestyle factors may cause a reduction in sodium levels significantly.

  • Drinking too much water or fluid
  • Dehydration
  • Sometimes the severe vomiting or diarrhea
  • Hormonal changes like adrenal gland disorder, hypothyroidism, etc.
  • Severe ailments and medical conditions like Kidney Disease or failure, Liver Disease, congestive heart failure, etc.
  • Certain medications like diuretics, anti-depressants, and pain medications.

Symptoms

There may be no symptoms if you have mild hyponatremia. You may have symptoms when the level of sodium in your blood goes too low or drops too fast. In severe cases, you may have one or more of the following:

  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • A headache, confusion, or fatigue
  • Low blood pressure
  • Loss of energy
  • Muscle weakness, twitching, or cramps
  • Seizures or coma
  • Restlessness or bad temper

How do you treat hyponatremia?

Treatment is based on the cause and the seriousness of your hyponatremia. You may have to cut back on the number of liquids you drink if you have extra water in your body. Your healthcare provider may also adjust your diuretic (water pill) used to raise the level of blood sodium. You may also need one or more of the following:

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  • Intravenous (IV) fluid – Sodium solutions may be given through your vein to increase the amount of sodium in your blood. This is usually done in the hospital.
  • Sodium retaining medicines: These medicines help your kidneys get rid of large amounts of urine. This makes the extra water leave your body and keeps the sodium inside your body.
  • Dialysis: If your kidneys are not working well you may need to have dialysis to decrease the extra water in your body.

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