Hyponatremia – Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

December 22 21:11 2019 Print This Article

Hyponatremia is a lower than normal concentration of sodium in the blood. Hyponatremia usually occurs during marathons and long triathlons, when athletes are exercising longer and drinking more than they do in training. Hyponatremia is also called water intoxication. Severe cases can lead to seizure, coma, and even death. Common causes include diuretic use, diarrhea, heart failure, and renal disease.

Clinical manifestations are primarily neurologic (due to an osmotic shift of water into cells), especially in acute hyponatremia, and include headache, confusion, and stupor; seizures and coma may occur. Low blood sodium is common in older adults. This is due to age-related changes and increased prevalence of chronic disease that may impair the body’s normal sodium balance. Because these signs and symptoms are nonspecific and occur in many conditions, the only way a doctor can confirm low blood sodium is by a blood test.

Treatment of hyponatremia is directed at the underlying cause, if it can be identified and corrected. Your doctor may advise you to temporarily cut back on fluids to increase blood sodium levels.

Causes of Hyponatremia

Find common causes and risk factors of Hyponatremia:

  • Burns
  • Certain kidney diseases
  • Liver cirrhosis
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Use of diuretics (“water pills”), especially of the type known as thiazide diuretics

Signs and Symptoms of Hyponatremia

Sign and symptoms may include the following:

  • Fatigue
  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Irritability
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Muscle weakness
  • Confusion
  • Headache
  • Lightheadedness

Treatment for Hyponatremia

The cause of hyponatremia must be treated, especially in the case of a malignancy where radiation, chemotherapy, or surgical removal of the tumor may correct the sodium imbalance. Severe hyponatremia can be treated by infusing a solution of 5% sodium chloride in water into the bloodstream. Moderate hyponatremia due to use of diuretics or an abnormal increase in vasopressin is often treated by instructions to drink less water each day. Hyponatremia due to adrenal gland insufficiency is treated with hormone injections.

  • Intravenous (IV) fluids
  • Supplemental oxygen, through a mask or a ventilator
  • Medication to combat symptoms such as seizures
  • Water and salt restriction