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Know the basics

What is hyponatremia?

Hyponatremia is a condition when your body’s level of sodium is too low. The normal level of sodium is 135 mEq/L. Sodium is an electrolyte, and it helps regulate the amount of water that’s in and around your cells. There are two types of hyponatremia:

  • Chronic hyponatremia is when your body’s sodium level drops gradually for longer than 48 hours or longer. The symptoms of this type of hyponatremia are usually mild or moderate.
  • Acute hyponatremia is when you body’s sodium level drops suddenly. It can lead to more serious symptoms, such as rapid brain swelling, which can result in coma and death.

How common is hyponatremia?

Hyponatremia is very common at all ages, especially older adults. It can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Know the symptoms

What are the symptoms of hyponatremia?

Hyponatremia signs and symptoms may include:

  • Nausea and vomiting;
  • Headache;
  • Confusion;
  • Loss of energy and fatigue;
  • Restlessness and irritability;
  • Muscle weakness, spasms or cramps;
  • Seizures;
  • Coma.

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have a medical condition that increases your risk of hyponatremia, or you have other risk factors for hyponatremia, such as participating in high-intensity activities, and you have the signs and symptoms of low blood sodium listed above, see your doctor.

Know the causes

What causes hyponatremia?

Sodium is an important substance that maintains the blood pressure. Sodium is also needed for nerves, muscles, and other body tissues to work properly. When the amount of sodium in fluids outside cells goes down under the normal level, water moves into the cells to balance the levels, casing the symptoms of hyponatremia.

There are many factors leading to the decrease of sodium in blood, including:

  • Diuretic medications such as water pills, antidepressants and pain killers.
  • Health problems: heart, kidney and liver problems; syndrome of inappropriate anti-diuretic hormone (SIADH); chronic, severe vomiting or diarrhea; hormonal changes; sweating.
  • Drinking too much water.

 

Know the risk factors

What increases my risk for hyponatremia?

The following factors may increase your risk of hyponatremia:

  • Age: The older you are, the more risk you get hyponatremia.
  • Certain drugs.Medications that increase your risk of hyponatremia include thiazide diuretics as well as some antidepressants and pain medications.
  • Conditions that decrease your body’s water excretion include kidney disease, syndrome of inappropriate anti-diuretic hormone (SIADH) and heart failure, among others.
  • Intensive physical activities.People who drink too much water while taking part in marathons, ultramarathons, triathlons and other long-distance, high-intensity activities are at an increased risk of hyponatremia.

Understand the diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is hyponatremia diagnosed?

Hyponatremia is diagnosed by measuring the sodium level in the blood. It is hard to diagnose the underlying cause of hyponatremia. Your doctor will ask about your medical history, your current health condition and any recent medications. Your doctor might order some tests, such as blood and urine tests to evaluate the amount of fluid in the body, the concentration of blood, and content of urine.

How is hyponatremia treated?

Treatment for this condition is aimed at treating the underlying causes. It may include:

  • Cutting back on fluid intake;
  • Adjusting the dosage of diuretics;
  • Treating underlying conditions.

Severe hyponatremia is an emergency. To treat it, doctors need:

  • Intravenous (IV) sodium solution infusion;
  • Medications for symptoms such as headaches, nausea, and seizures.

The level of sodium in the blood needs to be increased slowly.  Increasing the level too rapidly can result in severe and often permanent brain damage.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage hyponatremia?

The following measures may help you prevent hyponatremia:

  • Treat associated conditions.Getting treatment for conditions that contribute to hyponatremia, such as adrenal gland insufficiency, can help prevent low blood sodium.
  • Educate yourself.If you have a medical condition that increases your risk of hyponatremia or you take diuretic medications, be aware of the signs and symptoms of low blood sodium. Always talk with your doctor about the risks of a new medication.
  • Take precautions during high-intensity activities.Athletes should drink only as much fluid as they lose due to sweating during a race. Thirst is generally a good guide to how much water or other fluids you need.
  • Consider drinking sports beverages during demanding activities.Ask your doctor about replacing water with sports beverages that contain electrolytes when participating in endurance events such as marathons, triathlons and other demanding activities.
  • Drink water in moderation.Drinking water is vital for your health, so make sure you drink enough fluids. But don’t overdo it. During a typical day, women should aim to drink 2.2 liters of fluids per day. Men should aim for 3 liters. Thirst and the color of your urine are usually the best indications of how much water you need. If you’re not thirsty and your urine is pale yellow, you are likely getting enough water.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Review Date: January 4, 2017 | Last Modified: January 4, 2017

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