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Hyponatremia (Low sodium in the body)


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Hyponatremia is an electrolyte disorder, marked by abnormally low concentration of sodium in the plasma, i.e. it falls below 135 mmol/L.

Different grades of hyponatremia based on amounts of sodium are:

Mild - 125–134 mmol/L.

Moderate - 115–124 mmol/L.

Severe - < 115 mmol/L.

Hyponatremiacan be an acute condition and considered asan emergency situation as sodium levels drops drastically within 48 hours or less. In case of chronic hyponatremia, sodium concentration depletes in 48 hours or more.

What are the symptoms of Hyponatremia (low sodium)

As the levels of sodium drops really low, it causes the following symptoms of hyponatremia:

  • Lack of energy
  • Fatigue, dizziness, drowsiness
  • Headache
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Weakness in muscles
  • Muscular cramps and spasms
  • Fainting, seizures
  • Restlessness
  • Decreased level of consciousness.
  • Disorientation, confusion
  • Coma, in some cases


Other symptoms that are seen are neurological in nature. These symptoms occur only when the levels of sodium are very low, that is, <115 mEq/L). This causes the water to enter the brain cells causing them to swell. This leads to increase in pressure in the skull. A condition called as hyponatremic encephalopathy occurs as a result of the pressure. It can further squeeze the brain against the internal skull structure leading to herniation of the brain.

The symptoms experienced due to these conditions include:

  • Headache
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Compression of the brain stem
  • Respiratory arrest
  • Death, if not treated immediately

What causes Hyponatremia? (low sodium)

Sodium levels can deplete when water and fluid content of your body is too high (hypervolemichyponatremia) or in case the salt and waterbalance of your body dropsunusually low (hypovolemic hyponatremia).

In case of hypervolemic hypothermia, the factors that can lead to increase in sodium and water content of the body include:

Hypovolemic hyponatremiaoccurs when there is massive sodium loss from the body. The causes include:

  • Prolonged case of vomiting, severe diarrhea
  • Use of diuretics like Desmopressin, and sulfonylureas
  • Addison’s disease
  • Congenital adrenal hyperplasia, where the adrenal glands do not produce enough steroid hormones

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Other causes that can lead to hyponatremia include:

When to call a doctor?

See your doctor if you have been experiencing the symptoms regularly and you already have a medical condition such as cirrhosis of liver or cardiac problem.

Complications of hyponatremia (low sodium)

Acute hyponatremia could be dangerous as sodium levels drop rapidly and suddenly. Under such circumstances, water might enter the cells, leading to swelling and edema. Cerebraledema is one of themost serious complications of hyponatremia, as brain damage can occur.

Diagnosis of hyponatremia (low sodium)

Your doctor will evaluate the symptoms, check your medical history and other health issues that you might be suffering from. Tell your doctor about the drugs you are taking.

Blood tests will be done to measure the level of sodium in the bloodstream. Urine tests help in measuring the amount of sodium excreted in the urine.

Treatment for hyponatremia (low sodium)

Mild hyponatremiamay not require any treatment. The normal level of sodium can be restored with electrolyte drinks and some adjustment in diet and lifestyle. The dramatic fall in sodium or inacute cases will require intravenous drip ofIV sodium and fluids. You need to stay in the hospital and your plasma sodium levels will be monitored.

Additionally, general medicines will be prescribed to treat other symptoms like headache, nausea, vomiting etc.

However, if a medical condition has been addressed, then the first line of treatment will involve curing it.

How to prevent hyponatremia (low sodium)

Hyponatremia can be prevented when you are consuming adequate amount of electrolytes along with theright proportion of water.

Take the following precautions to avoid the condition:

  • Drink water throughout the day, but do not over drink to bloat your system
  • Make sure to have sports drinks or electrolyte drinks during extensive physical activities
  • Watch out your daily intake of sodium. Make sure the sodium level in your diet is advised by your doctor.

Sodium plays a significant role in controlling a wide range of cellular functions. Therefore, it’s important to maintain its balance along with other electrolytes. If you have any doubts regarding your health due to sodium levels, speak to your healthcare provider for medical advice.

Written by: healthplus24.com team

Date last updated: January 31, 2015

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