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Hyponatremia: Associated Facts

Hyponatremia means that the amount of sodium in your blood is lower than normal.

Hyponatremia is not a disease per se and can be an indication of several medical conditions. You need a specific quantity of sodium in the body to regulate the water quantity present in and around the cells. Such a condition occurs when you drink an excessive amount of water resulting in dilution of sodium. However, it might indicate a particular health condition or be a side effect of medication.

The depletion of sodium within your body causes more water to accumulate. This results in swelling of the body—the problems caused by this swelling range from mild to life-threatening condition. The treatment for Hyponatremia involves treating the underlying condition.

Signs & Symptoms of Hyponatremia

You may not exhibit any symptoms or feel unwell when the hyponatremia is too mild to impact your health significantly.

But hyponatremia can cause :

● Nausea and vomiting.

● Weakness.

● Irritability.

● Confusion.

Headache.

● Muscle cramps.

● Drowsiness.

You may have to be hospitalized immediately when you report severe and persistent vomiting, seizures, and extreme confusion.

What Causes Hyponatremia?

Sodium plays a crucial role in your body. It helps maintain normal blood pressure, supports your nerves and muscles’ work, and regulates your body’s fluid balance.

A normal blood sodium level is between 135 and 145 milliequivalents per liter (mEq/L). Hyponatremia occurs when the sodium in your blood falls below 135 mEq/L.

Various lifestyle factors and conditions may cause hyponatremia. Some of them are:

● Some Medication: Several diuretics (water pills), antidepressants, and medicines for relieving pain may affect hormonal secretions and kidney functions adversely.

● Heart, kidney, and liver problems: When you experience congestive heart failure or kidney and liver ailments, fluids may accumulate in your body, resulting in sodium dilution. This reduces the overall sodium levels in your body.

● SIADH: It stands for Syndrome of Inappropriate Antidiuretic Hormone. Your body will retain excessive amounts of water due to an increase in the anti-diuretic hormone (ADH).

● Dehydration: Your body tends to lose water and electrolytes such as sodium rapidly when you have chronic diarrhea or excessive vomiting. It also increases ADH levels.

● Overhydration: Drinking more water can affect normal kidney functions and result in dilution of body fluids with a reduced quantity of sodium in the body.

● Hormonal changes: Patients diagnosed with Addison’s disease or Adrenal gland insufficiency suffer from low sodium in the body due to insufficient hormone secretion by Adrenal glands. Lack of sufficient thyroid hormone can also lower the blood-sodium level.

● Ecstasy: People who use the recreational drug Ecstasy or MDMA may be affected by acute hyponatremia that may become fatal due to overuse

What are the risk factors associated with hyponatremia?

Various factors increase your risk of hyponatremia. Some of them are:

● Age: Older people may have more contributing factors for hyponatremia

● Medications

● Chronic Conditions

● Extensive Physical Exercise: Drinking too much water while participating in marathons, ultramarathons, triathlons including other long-distance, high-intensity activities are at an higher risk of hyponatremia

Possible Complications

Acute hyponatremia can lead to complications, often resulting in swelling of the brain and coma before death.

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Treatment of Hyponatremia

The treatment of hyponatremia is not specific. Instead, doctors try to eliminate the cause for water retention and the fall of sodium levels. Patients with mild to moderate hyponatremia are asked to drink lesser amounts of fluids or temporarily stop taking certain medicines. This will reverse the condition with the patient being able to continue living as before.

A severe fall in sodium levels requires more aggressive and extensive treatment. The methods used may include any one of the following:

● IV fluids – An intravenous infusion of sodium solution can help to enhance your sodium levels slowly. Care must be taken to prevent a quick increase in electrolyte levels, however.

● Medication – Doctors prescribe medicines for reducing the associated symptoms that may include headaches, seizures, nausea, and vomiting.

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Precautions

Certain precautions you can take are:

● Treating the underlying cause can help to prevent worsening of the condition.

● You need to remain aware of the risks and take preventive measures in time.

● You would be well advised to drink an adequate quantity of water/ fluids but not overdo it.

● Medical professionals recommend drinking fortified drinks after strenuous physical activity instead of plain water.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  1. Does coffee affect sodium levels?

Drinking too much coffee can affect sodium level causing it to fall below the normal range. Caffeine, the main component of coffee, is a diuretic that causes increased water within the body to facilitate urination. Caffeine is also a natriuretic substance that causes the elimination of sodium along with urine.

  1. Will eating more salt help hyponatremia?

Adding more salt to your diet may help when you have mild hyponatremia. Doctors advise restricting water intake instead of increasing salt in the diet to combat the condition.

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