Sodium is a crucial electrolyte that transmits signals between the cells and helps the fluid within the cells. Having improper levels of sodium in the body can be worrying. Having too little sodium in the body (hyponatremia) is a condition where the body loses or retains an excessive amount of water which in turn affects the level of sodium in your body. This generally happens when your body fails to remove water normally as it should.
Do you want to know more about hyponatremia or low blood sodium in the body? In this article, you will find all about hyponatremia, it’s causes, symptoms and treatment.
Read on to find out!
Also read: Salt Cravings: Why Do People Have Them?
What is Hyponatremia?
Hyponatremia is a scientific term for low sodium levels in the body. Hypo which means low and natremia which contains ‘Na’- the chemical symbol of sodium. It is a condition which occurs when the amount of sodium in the individual’s blood is lower than the normal level. In simple words, low blood sodium in the body. It happens when water and sodium levels are imbalanced or there is too much water or not enough sodium in your blood.
So, what’s the normal or appropriate level of sodium in your blood? A normal sodium level in your blood should be between 135 and 145 milliequivalents per litre. If the blood sodium level is less than 135 milliequivalents per litre, this might be a condition of hyponatremia. Your cells tend to swallow due to too much water in the blood and this can lead to many health problems, some can be mild and some can even be life-threatening.
Symptoms of Hyponatremia
Usually, if the hyponatremia is mild or the level of blood sodium is falling slowly, you might not feel symptoms. Symptoms are more likely to appear when your blood sodium levels suddenly rise or drop. However, the symptoms of low blood sodium can vary from person to person.
The symptoms are mostly neurologic. When your body loses sodium quickly, this can cause a lot of severe symptoms like unconsciousness, seizures, coma and sometimes a medical emergency.
Here are the symptoms of hyponatremia you should know about:
- Vomiting and Nausea
- Cramps or spasms in the muscles
- Lack of consciousness
When to call the doctor?
Mostly, hyponatremia gets severe when your blood sodium levels fall rapidly and abruptly. Medical care is essential for people who develop confusion, seizures, change in mental status or lethargy. If an individual is at risk of hyponatremia and symptoms are starting to show up, seek immediate medical care. If you experience vomiting, seizures and loss of consciousness, you should call the doctor immediately.
Causes of Hyponatremia
Hyponatremia happens when there are low blood sodium levels in the body. It may result in excess fluid in the body compared to the amount of sodium in the blood or it may be due to loss of sodium levels and fluids. So, what actually causes hyponatremia?
Here are some probable causes of hyponatremia or low blood sodium levels:
- Certain Medications such as water pills also known as diuretics, antidepressants and painkillers which can make you pee or sweat excessively. These can affect your blood sodium levels prominently.
- Diseases like heart conditions (heart failure), kidney-related diseases and liver diseases can dilute the sodium in the body making you lose a lot of sodium.
- Hormone imbalances can also affect the levels of blood sodium. A hormone-related condition called SIADH can make you retain more water. Addison’s disease which affects your hormone levels that keep a check on your electrolytes. Also, if your thyroid hormone is low, the sodium level in the body is affected too.
- Drinking a lot of water sounds healthy but excessive of it may dilute the amount of sodium in the blood. This mostly happens with athletes who drink a lot of water during marathons and sports events. They lose sodium through sweat and excessive water drinking may cause hyponatremia.
- Diarrhea can also lead to the loss of body fluids which may include electrolytes like sodium.
- Adrenal gland insufficiency can affect the hormonal balance which can affect the sodium, potassium and water levels in the body
- Certain recreational drugs like ecstasy can lower the sodium levels in the body and may cause hyponatremia.
Also read: Why Shouldn’t You Take Antidepressants
Who is at risk of developing hyponatremia?
This condition can happen to anyone but certain risk factors increase the chances of developing this condition:
- Age: People of old age are at more risk of developing hyponatremia as many chronic diseases affect the levels of sodium in the body.
- Medications: certain medications like diuretics, antidepressants and pain medications can increase the likelihood of hyponatremia in the body.
- Intensive Physical Exercises: The body loses sodium in the form of sweat and performing intense exercises may make you lose a lot of sodium from the body.
- Conditions associated with decreased water excretion in the body: conditions like kidney diseases, SIADH, heart failure etc. may decrease the water secretion in the body.
Also read: The Role Of Phytosterols For A Healthy Heart
How can you prevent Hyponatremia?
The treatment of hyponatremia depends on person to person. The doctor may prescribe urine and blood tests for diagnosis but your treatment will depend on the cause.
Here’s how you may prevent hyponatremia:
- If you experience any symptoms even if they are mild, get yourself checked to be sure, you may prevent this condition early.
- Take precautions while performing high-intensity exercises. Athletes should drink the amount of water they lose. Excessive water drinking may worsen the condition.
- Treat the conditions that are associated with hyponatremia like adrenal gland insufficiency, hormonal imbalances etc. This can prevent low sodium levels in the body.
- Drink water with precaution. Drink in moderation. Do not over drink water. Thirst and the colour of your urine is the best indication of the amount of water your body needs.
- Consume a sports drink when you are performing high-intensity workouts or exercises.
This was all about low sodium levels in the body or hyponatremia. Educate yourself and be aware of all the potential symptoms of hyponatremia. This way you might be able to prevent or treat it easily. Take an immediate doctor’s advice when you experience symptoms.