Low Sodium Levels In The Blood Explained

Low blood sodium is also known as hyponatremia. Sodium is an electrolyte. It helps maintain the balance of water in and around your cells. Sodium is important for proper muscle and nerve function. It also keeps your blood pressure stable.

Low blood sodium occurs when water and sodium are out of balance. Either there is too much water or too little sodium.

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.

Who Is at Risk for Low Sodium in Blood?

Certain factors increase your risk for low blood sodium, including:

  • old age
  • using diuretics
  • being on anti-depressants
  • taking ecstasy
  • being a high-performance athlete
  • living in warmer climates
  • being on a low-sodium diet

If you are at risk for low sodium, you may need to be more careful about your intake of electrolytes and water.

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.

Tests for Low Sodium in Blood

A blood test can be used to check for low sodium levels. Even if you are not experiencing symptoms of low blood sodium, your doctor may order a basic metabolic panel.

This tests the amounts of electrolytes and minerals in your blood. A basic metabolic panel is often part of a routine physical. It may identify low blood sodium in someone without any symptoms.

If your levels are abnormal, your doctor will order a urine test. The amount of sodium in your urine will be checked. The results of this test will help your doctor determine the cause of your low blood sodium.

If blood sodium levels are low but urine levels are high, your body is losing too much sodium. Low sodium levels in both blood and urine mean your body is not taking in enough sodium.

There may also be too much water in your body.

Tests for Low Sodium in Blood

A blood test can be used to check for low sodium levels. Even if you are not experiencing symptoms of low blood sodium, your doctor may order a basic metabolic panel.

This tests the amounts of electrolytes and minerals in your blood. A basic metabolic panel is often part of a routine physical. It may identify low blood sodium in someone without any symptoms.

If your levels are abnormal, your doctor will order a urine test. The amount of sodium in your urine will be checked. The results of this test will help your doctor determine the cause of your low blood sodium.

If blood sodium levels are low but urine levels are high, your body is losing too much sodium. Low sodium levels in both blood and urine mean your body is not taking in enough sodium. There may also be too much water in your body.

Prevention of Low Blood Sodium

Keeping your water and electrolyte levels in balance can help prevent low blood sodium. If you are an athlete, it is very important to drink the right amount of water during exercise.

You should drink no more than 1 liter per hour. Don’t forget that it is possible to drink too much water.

Athletes should also consider a drinking a rehydration beverage, such as Gatorade or Powerade. These drinks contain electrolytes, including sodium.

They help replenish sodium lost through sweating. These drinks are also helpful if you lose a lot of fluids through vomiting or diarrhea.

During a typical day, women should aim to drink 2.2 liters of fluids per day. Men should aim for 3 liters. When you are adequately hydrated, your urine will be pale yellow and you will not feel thirsty.

It is important to increase your fluid intake:

  • in warm weather
  • at high altitudes
  • when pregnant or breastfeeding
  • during intense exercise
  • during a fever
  • if you are vomiting or have diarrhea.

How is hyponatremia (low blood sodium) diagnosed?

The symptoms of hyponatremia are nonspecific, so a blood test measuring the sodium level is required to confirm the diagnosis of hyponatremia.

Sometimes the medical history (such as prolonged vomiting or excessive sweating) will suggest the diagnosis.

In other cases, further blood tests, urine tests, and imaging studies may be needed in order to determine the exact cause of the hyponatremia.

Source & More Info: Medicine Net and Healthline

>>VIDEO

.

Leave a Comment