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What to Know About Hyponatremia (Low Sodium Levels)

Hyponatremia is a medical condition that occurs due to the low levels of sodium in the blood.

Sodium is an electrolyte that helps regulate the amount of water in the cells, and supports the nerve and muscle function in the body.

When sodium levels drop too low, it can cause a range of symptoms and complications.

In this post, we’ll talk about the causes, symptoms, treatment, and prevention. We’ll also cover some of the complications of this condition.

What is Hyponatremia?

Hyponatremia is when there is a deficiency of sodium in the blood.

If the amount of sodium in the blood goes below normal, usually defined as less than 135 mEq/L, it can cause various symptoms.

The causes of hyponatremia include:

  • Excessive sweating
  • Kidney disease
  • Adrenal insufficiency
  • Diuretics
  • Antidepressants
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Liver cirrhosis
  • Lung disease
  • Drinking too much water

Symptoms of Hyponatremia

The symptoms of hyponatremia can differ based on the severity and speed of onset, but they commonly include:

  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle
  • Seizures
  • Hallucinations
  • Coma

Infants and children may also show symptoms like irritability, lethargy, and poor feeding, while older adults may experience confusion, falls, and poor cognitive function.

Diagnosis of Hyponatremia

Diagnosing hyponatremia requires a thorough medical evaluation, including a physical examination, and blood tests.

Physical Examination

A physical exam is done to look out for certain signs like dehydration and neurologic dysfunction.

Laboratory Tests

A comprehensive metabolic panel test, including the measurement of sodium, potassium, chloride, bicarbonate, blood urea nitrogen and creatinine.

The normal range of sodium in the blood is typically between 135 to 145 milliequivalents per liter (mEq/L).

If the test results falls below the normal range, that is a possible sign of hyponatremia.

Additional tests to consider are urine analysis, serum osmolality, and checking urine sodium levels.

Treatment of Hyponatremia

In mild cases, the condition may resolve on its own and so treating it is not necessary.

However, if it becomes much more serious, you need treatment to prevent further complications.

Here are some of the common treatments for hyponatremia.

  • Oral sodium tablets: These supplements contain sodium chloride, which is the most common form of salt. They can be taken orally to increase the levels of sodium in the blood.
  • ORS: It contains a balanced amount of sodium, glucose, and other electrolytes.
  • Hypertonic saline: A type of saline that contains higher amounts of sodium. It is used in severe cases of hyponatremia where rapid correction of sodium levels is necessary.
  • Sodium bicarbonate: It works by correcting the acid-base balance in the blood, which can help restore normal sodium levels.

Prevention

Even though hyponatremia can be treated, prevention is always better than cure.

Here are some tips for preventing hyponatremia:

  • Drink low amounts of water to prevent further dilution of sodium in the blood.
  • Eating a balanced diet that is rich in sodium and potassium.
  • Stop taking antidepressants, diuretics and pain medications.
  • Monitor your sodium levels by performing a serum sodium test.
  • During endurance activities, drink water only when you’re thirsty, and consume sports drinks that contain electrolytes.

Complications

Severe cases of hyponatremia can be life-threatening. Here are some of the complications:

  • Brain swelling
  • Heart failure
  • Arrhythmia
  • Low blood pressure
  • Kidney failure
  • Electrolyte imbalances
  • Rapid breathing
  • Osteoporosis
  • Muscle weakness and cramps

Conclusion: What to Know About Hyponatremia

Hyponatremia is a serious health issue that can result in a range of symptoms, and being mindful of them can help to prevent severe complications.

The symptoms of hyponatremia can be mild, sometimes too severe, and in extreme cases, it can lead to death.

If your body is showing symptoms, seek medical attention right away for immediate treatment.

To lower the chances of getting hyponatremia and other related health problems, people can keep themselves informed and take steps to maintain a healthier lifestyle.

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