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Hyponatremia: Low Sodium Levels

Hyponatremia: Low Sodium Levels
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Hyponatremia is the medical term for low sodium levels in the blood. Keeping sodium levels balanced is essential for health, as low levels can lead to dire medical consequences. Any sodium measurement under 135 mmol/L is considered too low. Hyponatremia can occur gradually over a period of time, or it can happen suddenly, depending on the underlying cause. Low sodium levels are very common, affecting more than 200,000 new patients every year in the US alone.

What Causes Hyponatremia?

  • Dehydration
  • Severe vomiting
  • Intestinal obstruction
  • Severe diarrhea
  • Intestinal fistulas
  • Heart disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Liver disease
  • Certain medications
    • Direutics
    • Anti-depressants
    • Pain relievers
  • Syndrome of inappropriate antidiurectic hormone- SIADH
  • Surgery and trauma
  • Stroke
  • Over-hydration

Types of Hyponatremia

True Hyponatremia

This is the most common type of hyponatremia. Also known as hypotonic hyponatremia, it is characterized by varying degrees of the patient’s blood volume.

Acute Hyponatremia

This type refers to low sodium levels that occur rapidly, typically due to dehydration from severe vomiting or diarrhea.

Chronic Hyponatremia

This refers to sodium levels that gradually decrease over time due to an chronic underlying condition, such as kidney disease or liver disease.

low sodium levels

Hyponatremia Symptoms

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Lethargy
  • Cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Confusion
  • Fatigue
  • Memory Loss
  • Irritability
  • Muscle Weakness
  • Loss of Appetite

Diagnosing Hyponatremia

Your primary care physician can diagnose you with hyponatremia based on a blood panel. Most cases of hyponatremia are diagnosed in emergency rooms due to their sudden onset.

Treating Hyponatremia

The severity of the low sodium levels will determine the method of treatment for hyponatremia. Moderate to severe hyponatremia is usually treated with saline intravenous fluids and hospitalization. These IV fluids can help to balance the patient’s sodium levels. It’s crucial to not give the patient too much saline too quickly, as this can lead to central pontine myelinolysis, a neurological condition that causes damage to the myelin sheaths of nerve cells. Treating mild hyponatremia depends on the underlying cause. For example, mildly low sodium levels caused by certain medications can be resolved by lowering the dose of those medications or eliminating them altogether.

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