Disease: Hyponatremia
(Low Blood Sodium)

    Hyponatremia facts

    • Hyponatremia refers to a low level of sodium in the blood.
    • Hyponatremia may result from excess fluid in the body relative to a normal amount of sodium, or it may be due to a loss of sodium and body fluid.
    • Symptoms are nonspecific and can include mental changes, headache, nausea and vomiting, tiredness, muscle spasms, and seizures.
    • Severe hyponatremia can lead to coma and can be fatal.
    • Treatment of hyponatremia involves intravenous fluid and electrolyte replacement, medications to manage the symptoms of hyponatremia, as well as any treatments for the underlying cause.

    What is hyponatremia (low blood sodium)?

    Hyponatremia refers to a lower-than-normal level of sodium in the blood. Sodium is essential for many body functions including the maintenance of fluid balance, regulation of blood pressure, and normal function of the nervous system. Hyponatremia has sometimes been referred to as "water intoxication," especially when it is due to the consumption of excess water, for example during strenuous exercise, without adequate replacement of sodium.

    Sodium is the major positively charged ion (cation) in the fluid outside of cells of the body. The chemical notation for sodium is Na. When combined with chloride (Cl), the resulting substance is table salt (NaCl).

    The normal blood sodium level is 135 - 145 milliEquivalents/liter (mEq/L), or in international units, 135 - 145 millimoles/liter (mmol/L). Results may vary slightly among different laboratories.

    What causes hyponatremia (low blood sodium)?

    A low sodium level in the blood may result from excess water or fluid in the body, diluting the normal amount of sodium so that the concentration appears low. This type of hyponatremia can be the result of chronic conditions such as kidney failure (when excess fluid cannot be efficiently excreted) and congestive heart failure, in which excess fluid accumulates in the body. SIADH (syndrome of inappropriate anti-diuretic hormone) is a disease whereby the body produces too much anti-diuretic hormone (ADH), resulting in retention of water in the body. Consuming excess water, for example during strenuous exercise, without adequate replacement of sodium, can also result in hyponatremia.

    Hyponatremia can also result when sodium is lost from the body or when both sodium and fluid are lost from the body, for example, during prolonged sweating and severe vomiting or diarrhea.

    Medical conditions that can sometimes be associated with hyponatremia are adrenal insufficiency, hypothyroidism, and cirrhosis of the liver.

    Finally, a number of medications can lower blood sodium levels. Examples of these include diuretics, vasopressin, and the sulfonylurea drugs.

    What are the symptoms of hyponatremia (low blood sodium)?

    When sodium levels in the body are low, water tends to enter cells, causing them to swell. When this occurs in the brain, it is referred to as cerebral edema. Cerebral edema is particularly dangerous because the brain is confined in the skull without room for expansion, and the swelling can lead to brain damage as the pressure increases within the skull. Cerebral edema occurs only in severe cases of hyponatremia.

    In chronic hyponatremia, in which the blood sodium levels drop gradually over time, symptoms are typically less severe than with acute hyponatremia (a sudden drop in blood sodium level). Symptoms can be very nonspecific and can include:

    • headache,
    • confusion or altered mental state,
    • seizures, and
    • decreased consciousness which can proceed to coma and death.

    Other possible symptoms include:

    • restlessness,
    • muscle spasms or cramps,
    • weakness, and tiredness.

    Nausea and vomiting may accompany any of the symptoms.

    What causes hyponatremia (low blood sodium)?

    A low sodium level in the blood may result from excess water or fluid in the body, diluting the normal amount of sodium so that the concentration appears low. This type of hyponatremia can be the result of chronic conditions such as kidney failure (when excess fluid cannot be efficiently excreted) and congestive heart failure, in which excess fluid accumulates in the body. SIADH (syndrome of inappropriate anti-diuretic hormone) is a disease whereby the body produces too much anti-diuretic hormone (ADH), resulting in retention of water in the body. Consuming excess water, for example during strenuous exercise, without adequate replacement of sodium, can also result in hyponatremia.

    Hyponatremia can also result when sodium is lost from the body or when both sodium and fluid are lost from the body, for example, during prolonged sweating and severe vomiting or diarrhea.

    Medical conditions that can sometimes be associated with hyponatremia are adrenal insufficiency, hypothyroidism, and cirrhosis of the liver.

    Finally, a number of medications can lower blood sodium levels. Examples of these include diuretics, vasopressin, and the sulfonylurea drugs.

    What are the symptoms of hyponatremia (low blood sodium)?

    When sodium levels in the body are low, water tends to enter cells, causing them to swell. When this occurs in the brain, it is referred to as cerebral edema. Cerebral edema is particularly dangerous because the brain is confined in the skull without room for expansion, and the swelling can lead to brain damage as the pressure increases within the skull. Cerebral edema occurs only in severe cases of hyponatremia.

    In chronic hyponatremia, in which the blood sodium levels drop gradually over time, symptoms are typically less severe than with acute hyponatremia (a sudden drop in blood sodium level). Symptoms can be very nonspecific and can include:

    • headache,
    • confusion or altered mental state,
    • seizures, and
    • decreased consciousness which can proceed to coma and death.

    Other possible symptoms include:

    • restlessness,
    • muscle spasms or cramps,
    • weakness, and tiredness.

    Nausea and vomiting may accompany any of the symptoms.

    Source: http://www.rxlist.com

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