Nutrition Vitamins

Low sodium levels (Hyponatremia) – Symptoms and causes

low sodium levels

Low sodium levels or hyponatremia is a fairly common electrolyte disturbance in the elderly and in those patients who are admitted to the hospital. Sodium is a very important electrolyte that regulates blood pressure, and the amount of water in the cells, and helps in making the muscles and nerves work efficiently.

If the sodium levels become low, it can cause swelling in the cells and body as sodium regulates the water levels in the cells. When a person’s sodium level is below 135 meq/L then s/he has hyponatremia or low sodium levels.

Knowing the symptoms and causes of low sodium levels is very important so that it can be treated before it becomes life-threatening to the patient.

Causes of Low Sodium Levels

1. Underlying Disease or Medical Problem – Some heart diseases, kidney problems, diabetes insipidus and liver problems etc also lead to low sodium levels.
2. A side-effect of many Medicines – Some medicines like diuretics to lower blood pressure, some painkillers and antidepressants are known to cause hyponatremia. Drug abuse with ecstasy makes the person lose sodium dramatically as well.
3. Excessive Water Consumption – This can cause excessive urination and the removal of sodium from the body faster.
4. Abnormal functioning of Hormones – SIADH or syndrome of inappropriate antidiuretic hormone secretion is another most common cause of hyponatremia (source). It doesn’t let the person urinate normally, thereby increasing water retention in the body. Low thyroid levels are also responsible for hyponatremia.
5. Diarrhea – The person loses both water and sodium in the case of diarrhea.

Also Read: Does Sodium Makes You Fat?

Symptoms of Hyponatremia

Mental Confusion & Irritability – Restlessness, brain fog, bad temper, headache, inability to take decisions, disorientation or inability to remember your whereabouts, seizures etc are the main symptoms of hyponatremia. If not treated, it can lead to psychosis as well.

Nausea and vomiting – These make the patient lose more sodium and worsen the condition further.

Coma
– In case the sodium levels go abnormally low, then it can be life-threatening and can lead to loss of consciousness and coma.

Fatigue & weakness – Low sodium levels make the muscle weak and unable to function. Some patients also feel cramps in their legs and arms.

Difficulty in walking – some patients present with an only complaint of difficulty walking which is another symptom of low sodium in the body.

Read More: Amazing Benefits of Walking in 8 Shape

Treatment for low sodium levels

Electrolyte drinks are one of the best treatments for mild hyponatremia. Also, the patient is advised not to drink excess water as fluid restriction is significant to treat hyponatremia.

Intravenous administration of sodium is performed in case of severely low sodium levels as it can be life-threatening if not treated. In other cases, medicines like tolvaptan, conivaptan, lixivaptan and satavaptan etc can help to retain the sodium in your body and get rid of extra water as well.

Treating the underlying cause of hyponatremia is important to treat the problem entirely, for example, in the case of kidney disease, the kidney is unable to get rid of excess water from the body so kidney treatment is performed to treat the underlying cause.

Prevention of low sodium levels

Stay aware of the side effects of medicines you are taking and the symptoms of hyponatremia as well beforehand. Also, drink electrolyte water during physical activity sessions and not the normal regular water so that you don’t end up removing more sodium from your body than sweating itself.

Avoid consumption of alcohol on a daily basis and take a balanced diet. Avoid crash dieting and excessive water consumption. If you have once had an episode of hyponatremia or low sodium in your life, then don’t take low sodium salt in your diet and switch to normal iodised salt and regular healthy meals.

What medications cause low sodium?

Some blood pressure medicines like thiazide diuretics or water pills, some painkillers and antidepressants are known to lower the sodium levels in the body.

Drug abuse with ecstasy is another big cause of hyponatremia and its fatal consequences.

Will drinking salt water help low sodium?

To some extent, yes it can if you are suffering from any hormonal disorder.

Otherwise, you should really restrict your liquid intake as per your doctor’s advice and choose a good electrolyte drink to replenish all the minerals that you have lost with excessive consumption of water, urination or sweating.

Should I eat more salt if my sodium is low?

In case you are suffering from SIADH or eat a really low-sodium diet on a daily basis like the one that lacks properly cooked meals and vegetables, then you should add more salt in your meals if your sodium is low.

In most cases, however, electrolyte drinks and treating the underlying cause of low sodium is the preferred method of treatment.

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