Hyponatremia

Hyponatremia

Overview

Hyponatremia is a specific type of electrolyte disorder, in which sodium levels in the blood are low. It is usually discovered on blood tests. With low sodium levels, the cells of the body begin to swell with water. The swelling can cause a range of health problems, including swelling of the brain, seizures and coma.

Signs and symptoms

Hyponatremia can cause confusion, disorientation, muscle cramps, vomiting, lethargy, headache, changes in mental state and weakness. In severe cases, the patient may experience seizures or a coma.

Causes and Risk Factors

Sodium in the body helps maintain normal blood pressure, function of the nerves and muscles and fluid balance. Drinking too much water, consuming certain medications, chronic vomiting or diarrhoea, and adrenal gland insufficiency could cause hyponatremia. Geriatric adults and premenopausal women have a high risk of hyponatremia.

Complications

Hyponatremia can cause seizures and coma. This usually results in brain damage or even death.

Diagnosis

The diagnosis typically begins with a patient’s medical history and a physical exam. Hyponatremia is diagnosed on the basis of a blood test measuring electrolyte levels in the blood. The doctor may require additional tests to assess the extent of complications caused by the hyponatremia.

Treatment

Treatment for hyponatremia aims to restore sodium balance and treat any complications. The patient may be given oral or intravenous medication to reduce symptoms. A diuretic will also be recommended to reduce swelling and fluid retention if present.

Prevention

To prevent hyponatremia, treat any underlying conditions you may have, and stay properly hydrated while engaging in strenuous physical activity.

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