Hypernatremia – Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

December 22 21:01 2019 Print This Article

The normal concentration of sodium in the blood plasma is 136-145 mM. Hypernatremia is defined as a serum sodium level over 145 mM. Severe hypernatremia, with serum sodium above 152 mM, can result in seizures and death.Sodium is the major positive ion (cation) in fluid outside of cells. The chemical notation for sodium is Na + (from natrium, a synonym for sodium). When combined with chloride (Cl), the resulting substance is table salt (NaCl). About 40% of the body’s sodium is contained in bone.

Approximately 2-5% occurs within organs and cells and the remaining 55% is in blood plasma and other extracellular fluids. The amount of sodium in blood plasma is typically 140 mM, a much higher amount than is found in intracellular sodium (about 5 mM). This asymmetric distribution of sodium ions is essential for human life. It makes possible proper nerve conduction, the passage of various nutrients into cells, and the maintenance of blood pressure. The body continually regulates its handling of sodium.

When dietary sodium is too high or low, the intestines and kidneys respond to adjust concentrations to normal. During the course of a day, the intestines absorb dietary sodium while the kidneys excrete a nearly equal amount of sodium into the urine. If a low sodium diet is consumed, the intestines increase their efficiency of sodium absorption, and the kidneys reduce its release into urine.

The concentration of sodium in the blood plasma depends on two things: the total amount of sodium and water in arteries, veins, and capillaries (the circulatory system). The body uses separate mechanisms to regulate sodium and water, but they work together to correct blood pressure when it is too high or too low. Too high a concentration of sodium, or hypernatremia, can be corrected either by decreasing sodium or by increasing body water.

Causes of Hypernatremia

Find common causes and risk factors of Hypernatremia:

  • Drugs such as steroids, licorice, and certain blood pressure lowering medicines.
  • Dehydration or a loss of body fluids from prolonged vomiting, diarrhea, sweating or high fevers.
  • Dehydration from not drinking enough water.
  • Certain endocrine diseases such as diabetes (when very frequent urination occurs) or aldosteronism.

Signs and Symptoms of Hypernatremia

Sign and symptoms may include the following:

  • Fatigue
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Muscle weakness
  • Headache

Treatment for Hypernatremia

  • Supplemental oxygen, through a mask or a ventilator.
  • Intravenous (IV) fluids.
  • Water and salt restriction.